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Pawing through the Past    by Rita Mae Brown & Sneaky Pie Brown order for
Pawing through the Past
by Rita Mae Brown
Order:  USA  Can
Bantam, 2001 (2000)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Browns (Rita Mae and her feline co-author Sneaky Pie) write niche mysteries, popular with pet lovers. Harry Haristeen is postmistress of Crozet, Virginia, a small town whose population seems to be steadily depleted by a high rate of violent death (four bodies in her latest book alone). Harry does not actively investigate murders, but rather chats about them with friends and acquaintances. It is her three pets (the feline Mrs. Murphy and Pewter) and her corgi Tucker who do the digging and solve the crimes.

Pawing through the Past deals with the preparation for a high school reunion, the event itself and its aftermath. Someone has an ax to grind with the men who were voted senior superlatives, and shoots and garottes them on a regular basis. No-one is too concerned about the first body (that of an unpopular womanizer) but the class of 1980 gets a little anxious as corpses continue to pile up, and the pets start pawing to save their beloved Mom. At the same time Harry gets closer to her ex and Miranda (class of 1950) continues an old romance.

It's a cute approach with the reader given a window into the animals' world that their owner and the people around her do not share ... though an owl's ability to identify a human by name seemed to me to be carrying anthropomorphism to extremes. I especially enjoyed the rejoinder to the comment that 'That cat is human', when Mrs. Murphy miaouwed (for the reader's eyes only) 'Don't flatter yourself.'

This tail wagging tale does strain credulity ... from the the speed at which corpses pile up in Crozet to the unusual identity of the murderer. However its animal antics and reunion reversals are entertaining and, if you don't take it too seriously, Harry Haristeen's Crozet is an amusing place to visit.

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