In the Mrs. Murphy mystery series, the characters occasionally find their mysteries at one or another of the various historic homes of early Presidents from Virginia that are so thickly clustered in their neighborhood. The previous book dealt with a murder at Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson and the next one features a racing event at Montpelier, the home of James and Dolly Madison. In Pay Dirt, the opening and final scenes of the mystery take place at Ash Lawn, once the home of James and Elizabeth Monroe.
This is the fourth book in the series, still early compared to some of the others. Harry Harristeen and Boom Boom Craycroft are still at odds over Boom Boom’s earlier affair with Harry’s ex-husband, Fair Harristeen. And young Marilyn Sanburne – Little Mim, as they often call her, after her mother, Big Marilyn, or Mim, is still a fairly remote and unknown quantity.
Harry has taken her new neighbor for a sightseeing tour at Ash Lawn where Little Mim is serving as the chief of the docents. She is having to keep her two school friends, Aysha Gill Cramer and Kerry McCray strategically separated as they have been at each other’s throats ever since Aysha suddenly married Kerry’s boyfriend, Norman Cramer, an accountant at the local bank. Aysha takes every opportunity to accuse Kerry of trying to steal her husband, and sometimes they get into actual fights about it.
A man on a motorcycle suddenly appears out of nowhere, apparently high on something and begins to disrupt activities at the mansion asking after someone he calls “Malibu.” Nobody knows who that is. Blair eventually is able to get him away from the house and calm him down by talking about his motorcycle. A few days later, he is found dead in the woods.
Meanwhile, everyone is worried about a new computer virus (this must have been a fairly early virus) called Threadneedle. A fix is already available for it, and even though it seems particularly to be aimed at banks, on the day it is programmed to strike, the damage appears to be minimal and fairly well contained. Until, some days later, it is discovered that two million dollars are missing from the Crozet National Bank. Norman Cramer is supposedly working on tracing the missing money, and his boss, Hogan Freely, the bank’s president is working late to see what he can find when he is found dead in his office.
“Telling those two to stay out of it is like telling a dog not to wag her tail,” Mrs. Murphy said to Pewter.
“ ‘Cept for Tucker,” Pewter teased.
Tucker replied from her spot under the table. “I resent that.”
Brown, Rita Mae, and Sneaky Pie Brown, Pay Dirt, p. 172
Evidence keeps piling up against Kerry McCray, but Harry’s pets, the cat Mrs. Murphy and the dog Tee Tucker, and their neighbor, Pewter (who in this book is still living in Shiflett’s Market) are pretty sure Kerry didn’t do anything. Harry and deputy Cynthia Cooper work hard at puzzling out the mystery, but it takes a discovery by Little Mim to figure the whole thing out, and help from Mrs. Murphy and Tucker to finally pin down the culprits.
I love this series, especially the input and insights of the animals.
Cover image from Goodreads.
Title: Pay Dirt
Or, Adventures at Ash Lawn
A Mrs. Murphy Mystery
Author: Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown
Publisher: Bantam Dell
Genre: Mystery/ Cozy/ Animals