The Litter of the Law by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown, Illustrated by Michael Gellatly, 2013, Bantam, $7.99, softbound, 292 pages. Category/Genre: mystery. Cover: very nice. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.
This series is a bit unusual in that a cat named Sneaky Pie Brown helped write it. Perhaps because of that, there are a good deal of animal characters (one of whom reportedly looks astonishingly like Sneaky Pie Brown), all of whom can talk to each other but who are not understood by humans. The animals' antics are surely one reason this series is so popular – it's a New York Times bestseller – but the human characters are also interesting, and the mystery is intriguing.
Mary Minor 'Harry' Haristeen and her husband, Fair, have a farm and a number of animals – not the least of whom are Mrs Murphy, the grey tiger cat; Tee Tucker, a corgi; and Pewter, a grey cat who loves eating more than just about anything else in the world. It's these three animals who do the most to help Harry when she's trying to solve a mystery, although they also enlist help from the other animals: crows, a possum, horses, a fox, and others.
In this installment, Harry, Fair, and their brood come across a scarecrow – a familiar sight in farmland, especially in October – but what isn't familiar is the attention the scarecrow is getting from the local crows, who are pecking at the scarecrow as if it's some sort of delicacy. Which, it turns out, it is, at least to crows. The scarecrow is actually a murder victim dressed up.
This grisly discovery is only the start; as Harry digs deeper, she uncovers an insidious plot that she and the other inhabitants of Crozet find both horrifying and enraging. But it's only a matter of time before the perpetrator realises Harry is getting too close and decides to cut his losses . . .
A good, quick read, The Litter of the Law will no doubt satisfy both those new to the series and those who are steadfast followers of Mrs Murphy and her gang of animal sleuths. If it were up to us, though, we'd opt for a bit less of the talk of crops and more from the animals' points of view. All in all, well done, and there's a handy reference guide at the beginning so you won't get lost amongst all the characters.