Sour Puss

August 19, 2007 - Sour Puss (Rita Mae and Sneaky Pie Brown). By my count, this is the 14th entry in Rita Mae and Sneaky Pie Brown's "Mrs. Murphy" series featuring Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen and her friends, both human and animal. The story begins with the re-marriage of Harry and local large animal veterinarian Fair Haristeen. It ends with murder as unresolved feelings manifest themselves through violence.

In this outing, Harry is jumping on the bandwagon of Virginia's burgeoning wine industry. Lots of people in the community have vineyards and private wine labels. Hence, the visit of Prof. Forland, an expert on a grape-attacking fungus. Also in the mix are two of his former students, Toby and Arch, who are now working at vineyards in the area and are still dealing with competition issues from their college days. Also, Arch dated Harry for a time after her divorce from Fair.

After a gathering one night, Prof. Forland drove away from the client's home and vanished. He eventually turned up dead, buried in Harry's peach orchard. Toby is also murdered and then, Hy, a wine maker and the main suspect in Toby's death, is found dead from an apparent suicide. For a brief time, Fair is a possible suspect in one of the murders.

Is someone trying to frame Fair? Are the murders part of a scheme by one of the local wine magnates to take over the competition? It’s questions like these that put Harry's life in danger. Ultimately, her animal friends must come to her rescue during a knock-down drag-out in Harry's barn.

In my opinion, this book is not the best of the series. Harry doesn't do too much investigating, and there are too many questions left unanswered until the wrap-up in the final chapter. I'm also not sure that I like Harry being married; it takes away a character trait, i.e. romantic indecision, that provided some dramatic tension in previous books. Now that all is forgiven and everyone is happy, they don't seem so interesting.