Hiss of Death
Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown
Bantam, Apr 12 2011, $26.00
In Crozet, Virginia, as she prepares to sell her first grapes, Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen struggles with stage one breast cancer, but refuses to let the deadly disease prevent her from living. Thus with her husband Fair’s encouragement the fortyish Harry signs up to participate in a 5K Run for Breast Cancer Awareness.
However, before the race, Harry and her pets (felines Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, and incorrigible corgi Tee Tucker) find the corpse of popular Central Virginia Medical Complex operating room nurse Paula Benton. Harry met the OR nurse during one of her recent hospital stays and respected the woman who was a key organizer of the race. Paula apparently died of anaphylactic shock caused by a hornet's sting. However, Harry wonders if the woman was murdered as Paula had issues with former addict now drug counselor Thadia Martin. Both were attracted to Dr. Cory Schaeffer, who is almost electrocuted in an electric car, which further affirms the belief by Harry and her sleuthing team that someone murdered Paula and tried to kill the physician.
The nineteenth Mrs. Murphy amateur sleuth (see Cat of the Century and Santa Clawed) is perhaps the most poignant tale of the long running series as the Brown tandem deftly focuses on breast cancer awareness inside of a well written whodunit. The cancer subplot supersedes the murder mystery summed up nicely in the Afterward by Ms. Brown’s late mom: “You’re going to be dead a long time. Do it now.” Readers will enjoy the latest anthropomorphist mystery as the “real important characters” and the human support encourage Harry; who accompanied by her three pets investigate the death with the last word finally belonging to “maligned” Pewter.