So what exactly is going on in Rita Mae Brown’s Cat as Cat Can, book #10 in her popular Mrs. Murphy pet detective cozy series? Well, as always with these books, the story opens up with the change of seasons; in this particular entry, it’s finally spring again. And with spring comes the blossoming of special events in the small town of Crozet, Virginia. This spring, it’s time for the residents to get dolled up for the annual Dogwood Festival. Meanwhile, strange occurrences are happening around town. And with Crozet’s postmistress, Minor “Harry” Haristeen, somewhere in the middle of said occurrences.
It started with a dead woodpecker found on her back porch. Before one of her cats could take the bird’s corpse into its claws, Harry snatches it up. Because of the bird's uniqueness, she plans to take it to a local taxidermist. And, while going about her business, Harry then finds her friend, Miranda Hogendobber, in the midst of a hubcap robbery. Miranda walked into a local grocery store, and walked out to find someone swiped her hubcaps in a blink. Considering the hubcaps' worth, Miranda, Harry, and Deputy Cynthia Cooper make way to the local salvage yard first.
But then the bodies start piling up. It began with one of the owners of the salvage yard turning up dead, and follows with the taxidermist Harry visited only days before with her dead woodpecker.
Believing the two deaths are connected, Harry investigates. And as she gets closer to the killer, her team of pets have to stay miles ahead of her to keep her safe.
Tasty Treat Reads as Tasty Treats
Though it’s been a hot minute, we know the routine on this series. I’ve been writing about these books for two years now. So not much as changed–in terms of how I love the “creamy” fluidity of Brown’s writing. She really knows how to fluff up and pull you into the homely atmosphere of her characters (animal and human) and town. And "homely atmosphere" is something necessary and befitting of this sub-genre in mystery. Hence why they’re considered “cozy.” Yet, it’s not always peas and carrots between her characters. Outside of the obvious interruption of small town murders, her characters know how to kill one another with words as well. Between cat and dog or human to human; there’s always something humorous, Southern, slippery, and shady in her characters’ dialogue. This is all so familiar and always entertaining when it comes to Brown. And probably a touch more entertaining for anyone Southern like myself. Because we live in a region dripping in good manners and a polite tonality, leaving one to deliver swear words with a sweet, disarming smile.
Besides that, the citizens of Crozet are just fun to read and be around. Especially with an assemblage of individual/personable narratives and B-stories given to each resident. The 60-something widow, Miranda, is getting through the death of her husband through dating a high school sweetheart. The town vixen, BoomBoom Craycroft, is going to counseling as she reforms from sowing her wild oats. And "sowing" as in sleeping with the main character Harry's once husband. Harry herself is slowly reconnecting with her cheating ex-husband Fair, despite her having multiple options on the table. And, well, with so many other characters, the unfolding of their individual stories never gets old book after book. However, it can be rough keeping up with these characters. Brown continues to bring them all on stage, book after book. With so many of them, you may find yourself overwhelmed if you decide to start the series ten books deep. Matter-of-fact, it’s worth everything to start the series from the beginning for the adjustment curve of Brown's writing alone.
But much of that is all standard to the series–with the only real variable being the actual mystery. And it's a place Brown is never totally formulaic. She doesn't repeat herself in that aspect, as she gives fresh trouble and new commentary each book.
So for the most part Catch as Cat Can delivered, in terms of mystery. Serviceable, but delivered. As with each entry, new characters are introduced. Out of the three or four introduced, it’s obvious that one or two play a role in the murders. So it’s not particularly difficult who to keep your eye on and your ear out for. Not complicated at all in that area. However, Catch as Cat Can is one of the few series entries where the crime is a lot wider in operation, than corruption within small town Crozet, Virginia’s. A crime that's reaching at times, but still entertaining when investigated by Brown's all-star cast. Animals and human alike.