Cover image for Pawing through the past
Pawing through the past
Brown, Rita Mae.
Personal Author:
[Large print edition].
Publication Information:
Rockland, MA : Wheeler Pub., [2001]

Physical Description:
360 pages (large print) ; 24 cm.
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X Adult Large Print - Floating collection Floating Collection - Large Print

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Emotions run high around Crozet, Virginia, as the Class of 1980 plans their twentieth high school reunion. It's even put Crozet's normally placid postmistress, Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen, who's on the organizing committee, on edge as she wonders if everything will come together on time.

When each member of the class receives an anonymous letter edged in school colors that reads "You'll never get old", Harry takes it as a compliment. Others think it's a joke. But even blitzed out on fresh catnip, Mrs. Murphy senses a much more sinister meaning. And the sly tiger cat is soon proven right when Charlie Ashcraft, the class womanizer, turns up dead with a bullet between his eyes. At first folks around Crozet figure that when a man is sleeping with other men's wives, trouble is sure to follow. But when another classmate is murdered, it becomes all too clear that someone is determined to spoil this reunion -- someone who has waited twenty years to take bitter revenge.

Author Notes

Rita Mae Brown was born in Hanover, Pennsylvania, on November 28, 1944. She received an associate's degree from Broward Junior College in 1965, a B.A. in English and classics from New York University in 1968, a Cinematography Degree from the School of the Visual Arts in 1968, and a Ph.D. in English and political science from the Institute for Policy Studies in 1976. She was the writer-in-residence at the Women's Writing Center of Cazenovi College and a visiting instructor teaching fiction writing at the University of Virginia.

After publishing two books of poetry, she published her first novel, Rubyfruit Jungle, in 1973. Her works include The Hand that Cradles the Rock, Sudden Death, Venus Envy, Loose Lips, and Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. She writes the Mrs. Murphy Mystery series and Foxhunting Mysteries series. She also writes screenplays and teleplays including Sweet Surrender, Room to Move, Table Dancing, and The Long Hot Summer. Her work on TV earned several Emmy nominations and she received the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Variety Show in 1982 for I Love Liberty.

(Bowker Author Biography) Rita Mae Brown is the author of many novels, including "Outfoxed" & "Loose Lips". She & her collaborator, Sneaky Pie Brown, have written eight previous Mrs. Murphy mysteries, most recently "Pawing Through the Past".

(Publisher Provided)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Apparently eight's the charm for Rita Mae Brown and her cat, Sneaky Pie, whose latest adventure just may be the best in this long-running series. Did Brown read reviews or hear complaints from fans about her last effort, Cat on the Scent [BKL Ja 1 & 15 00]? Whatever the reason, she has toned the corny elements way down this time around. Yes, the animals still talk, as they always do, but here the comments of Mrs. Murphy and Pewter (the cats) and Tee Tucker (the dog) are used judiciously, and Brown wisely avoids having them drive cars or perform other far-fetched antics. Happily, endearing protagonist Mary Minor "Harry" Harristeen, the thirtysomething, no-nonsense farmer who runs the post office in tiny Crozet, Virginia, takes center stage. As she plans the twentieth high-school reunion of Crozet High's class of 1980, Harry finds herself pondering various emotional issues, including her feelings for her ex-husband, Fair. Soon introspection turns to action as several of Harry's male classmates are shot. Brown delivers more information about Crozet "regulars" than she has in previous installments, adding spice to the story and fueling our curiosity about which one of these folksy characters could be a killer. Fans of cat mysteries will be happy to discover that Brown has returned to form. --Jenny McLarin

Publisher's Weekly Review

Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen and her intrepid trio of animal sleuths are back for an eighth--and winsome--adventure (following Cat on the Scent). Harry, postmistress of seemingly bucolic Crozet, Va., and her classmates are excited about their upcoming 20th high school reunion. They share bittersweet memories of that time when everything seemed possible, as preparations proceed to welcome back far-flung classmates. But it quickly becomes apparent that one person's memories are only bitter: weeks before the celebration, each classmate receives an anonymous letter reading, "You'll never get old." The class Casanova then gets a bullet between the eyes; more threatening letters follow. While the humans involved argue, dither and try to figure out what's behind the murderous rage turning their reunion into a killing ground, Mrs. Murphy, Pewter and Tee Tucker (Harry's sage tiger cat, plump gray cat and Welsh corgi, respectively) conduct their own investigation. Brown's appealing sense of humor, well-constructed setting and competent plotting carry the day. Her talking, thinking animals are funny and, for those who like this sort of thing, even adorable. Illus. by Itoko Maeno. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



The huge ceiling fan lazily swirled overhead, vainly attempting to move the soggy August air. Mary Minor Haristeen, Harry to her friends--and everyone was a friend--scribbled ideas on a yellow legal pad. Seated around the kitchen table, high-school yearbooks open, were Susan Tucker, her best friend, Mrs. Miranda Hogendobber, her coworker and good friend, and Chris Sharpton, an attractive woman new to the area. "We could have had this meeting at the post office," Susan remarked as she wiped the sweat from her forehead. "Government property," Miranda said. "Right, government property paid for with my taxes," Susan laughed. Harry, the postmistress in tiny Crozet, Virginia, said, "Okay, it is air-conditioned but think how many hours Miranda and I spend in that place. I have no desire to hang out there in my free time." "You've got air-conditioning at your house." Miranda stared at Susan. "I know but the kids are having a pool party and--" "You left the house with a party in progress? There won't be a drop of liquor left," Harry interrupted. "My kids know when to stop." "Congratulations," Harry taunted her. "That doesn't mean anyone else's kids know when to stop. I hope you locked the bar." "Ned is there." Susan returned to the opened yearbook, the conversation clearly over. Her husband could handle any crisis. "You could have said that in the first place." Harry opened her yearbook to the same page. "Why? It's more fun to listen to you tell me what to do." "Oh." Harry sheepishly bent over the yearbook photo of one of her senior superlatives, Most Likely to Succeed. "I can't believe I looked like that." "You look exactly the same. Exactly." Miranda pulled Harry's yearbook to her. "Don't compliment her, it will go to her head." Susan turned to Chris. "Are you sorry you volunteered to help us?" "No, but I don't see as I'm doing much good." The newcomer smiled, her hand on her own high-school yearbook. "All right. Down to business." Harry straightened her shoulders. "I'm in charge of special categories for our twentieth high-school reunion. BoomBoom Craycroft, our fearless leader"--Harry said this with a tinge of sarcasm about the head of the reunion--"is going to reshoot photographs of our senior superlatives with us as we are today. My job is to come up with other things to do with people who weren't senior superlatives. "That's only fair. I mean, there are only twelve senior superlatives, one male, one female. That's twenty people out of one hundred and thirty-two, give or take a few, since some of us were voted more than one superlative." Harry paused for a breath. "How many were in your class, Miranda?" "Fifty-six. Forty-two are still alive, although some of us might be on respirators. My task for my reunion is easier." Miranda giggled, her hand resting on the worn cover of her 1950 yearbook. "You all were so lucky to go to small high schools. Mine was a consolidated. Huge," Chris remarked, and indeed her yearbook bore witness to the fact, being three times fatter than that of Harry and Susan or Mrs. Hogendobber. Susan agreed. "I guess we were lucky but we didn't know it at the time." "Does anyone?" Harry tapped her yellow wooden pencil against the back of her left wrist. "Probably not. Not when you're young. What fun we had." Miranda, a widow, nodded her head, jammed with happy memories. "Okay, here's what I've got. Ready?" They nodded in assent so Harry began reading, "These are categories to try and include others: Most Distance Traveled. Most Children. Most Wives--" "You're not going to do that." Miranda chuckled. "Why not? That one is followed by Most Husbands. Too bad we can't have one for Most Affairs." Harry lifted her eyebrows. "Malicious," Susan said dryly. "Rhymes with delicious." Harry's eyes brightened. "Okay, what else have I got here? Most Changed. Obviously that has to be in some good way. Can't pick out someone who has porked on an extra hundred pounds. And--uh--I couldn't think of anything else." "Harry, you're usually so imaginative." Miranda seemed surprised. "She's not at all imaginative but she is ruthlessly logical. I'll give her that." Harry ignored Susan's assessment of her, speaking to Chris, "When you're new to a place it takes a long time to ferret out people's relationships to one another. Suffice it to say that Susan, my best friend since birth, feels compelled to point out my shortcomings." "Harry, being logical isn't a shortcoming. It's a virtue," Susan protested. "But we are light on categories here." Chris opened her dark green yearbook to a club photo. "My twentieth reunion was last year. One of the things we did was go through the club photos to see if we could find anyone who became a professional at something they were known for in high school. You know, like did anyone in Latin club become a Latin teacher. It's kind of hokey but you do get desperate after a time." Harry pulled the book toward her, the youthful faces of the Pep Club staring back at her. "Which one are you?" Chris pointed to a tall girl in the back row. "I wasn't blonde then." "I can see that." Harry read the names below the photo, finding Chris Sharpton. She slid the book back to the owner. "What we also did which took a bit of quick thinking on the spot was, we had cards made up with classmates' names written on them in italics. They were pretty. Anyway, if the individual hadn't fit into some earlier category we did things like Tom Cruise Double--anything to make them feel special." "That's clever," Miranda complimented her. "The other thing we did was make calls. As you know people disperse after high school. Each of us on the committee called everyone we were still in contact with from our class. We asked who they were in contact with and what they knew about the people. This way we gathered information for things like Most Community Service. After a time it's a stretch but it's important that everyone be included in some way. At the last minute we even wrote a card up, Still The Same." "Chris, these are good ideas." Harry was grateful. "You're wonderful to come help us. I mean, this isn't even your reunion." "I'm not as generous as you think," Chris laughed. "Susan bet me she'd beat me by three strokes on the Keswick golf course. The bet was I'd help you all if I lost." "What would you have gotten if you'd won?" "Two English boxwoods planted by my front walkway." Since moving to Crozet four months ago, Chris had thrown herself into decorating and landscaping her house in the Deep Valley subdivision, a magnet for under-forty newcomers to Albemarle County. An outgoing person, Chris had made friends with her neighbors but most especially Marcy Wiggins and Bitsy Valenzuela, two women married to men that were classmates of Harry's. "Good bet," Harry whistled. Excerpted from Pawing Through the Past by Rita Mae Brown, Sneaky Pie Brown All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.