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Pay Dirt    by Rita Mae Brown & Sneaky Pie Brown order for
Pay Dirt
by Rita Mae Brown
Order:  USA  Can
Bantam, 1996

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* * *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

Fans of the so-called cozy mystery, who are also animal lovers, will find Rita Mae and Sneaky Pie (obviously a most gifted feline) Brown's 'Mrs. Murphy' stories irresistible. Postmistress Mary Haristeen, or Harry, cares about her friends and neighbours in the little town of Crozet, Virginia. This attitude, combined with Harry's position, invariably involves her in others' misfortunes. (Crozet is yet another victim of the soaring crime rate, in fiction at least.) When murder, linked to a clever computer scam, rocks the town, Harry does her best to help resolve the situation and help her friends. As always, this leads her into danger.

What distinguishes this series is the intelligence of Harry's pets. Mrs. Murphy the tiger cat and Tucker the corgi are instrumental in solving the mystery, as well as rescuing their mistress. Their comments about the humans of Crozet (who are totally oblivious of the animals' sentience) and their interaction with both their human and animal neighbours add a fascinating dimension to the stories. The author maintains a delicate balance: the animals are quite believable. (Or perhaps only a pet-lover would think so!)

Crozet is a community, and the appeal of these stories lies as much in the desire to meet its citizens again - both animal and human - as in the crime that Harry is determined to help solve. Wendy Wray's charming illustrations are another plus.

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