I have read the 61st book for the book challenge. It was Sour Puss by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown.
The planters in the Charlottesville-Crozet area attend a lecture by Professor Forland about the dangers of bio-terrorism. Everyone is sufficiently alarmed by what he has to say about these biological agents that could wreck havoc on our crops and our lives.
Then Professor Forland goes missing. he was supposed to return to Virginia Tech but never showed up. His car was found but there was no sign of the professor. It is a mystery. A prime suspect is Toby, one of the vineyard growers. Toby had wanted a position at Virginia Tech under Professor Forland but he had given the position to Arch, who now works for Rollie, another vineyard owner.
Their is great competition among the vineyard owners. Hy is not liked by any of the other owners, nor is Toby. Rollie has Arch working for him. Arch used to date Harry and still likes her, but Harry has remarried Fair.
Fair gets a call from Toby that his donkey Jed has cut his leg. Fair races to Toby’s vineyard to take care of Jed but finds Toby lying dead on the ground and a truck pulling away. The truck belongs to Hy. The police arrest Hy for the murder of Toby, but for a while, Fair too is under suspicion. Fair and Harry look for the donkey Jed and eventually find him on the next farm and there is nothing wrong with him. There is no cut to his leg. This is indeed very strange.
Then Harry is in her peach orchard and on her fly strips she find a strange insect. She takes it to Bo to see what it is and it is a predator that can destroy her peaches. They usually are not seen so far north. Someone has planted them in her peaches. She is very upset.
Hy is released on bond. Then Fair is called to Hy’s vineyard. He arrives to find Hy dead; it looks like a suicide. But Fair isn’t really sure. Cooper and Rick come to investigate. They too are not sure. Fair of course is under suspicion. Fair and Arch have a fight at Big Mim’s Red Bud party over Harry.
Then Mrs. Murphy, Pewter, and Tucker find a shallow grave in the peach orchard, courteous of the bear on Harry’s property. They alert Harry and lead her to the grave in the peach orchard. Harry calls Cooper and Rick. They exhume the body in the grave and find Professor Forland. Harry and Fair are now suspects.
Harry is in the barn. She suddenly realizes how all the pieces of the puzzle fit into place just as she hears a truck drive up. Arch arrives looking for Harry. Harry has hidden in the barn and he is after her. Arch killed both Toby and Hy and now he is trying to kill Harry. If he can’t have her, no one can have her. He was trying to cast suspicions on Fair and put Fair in jail with the murders. (Toby had killed Professor Forland because he was upset that he hadn’t hired him for the position at Virginia Tech.) Just as Arch reaches Harry, the cats attack him. Then Matilda the black snake bites him. Then the cats attack his eye. And Simon the opossum bites his hand and when he falls, Tucker goes for his throat. Harry calls for Cooper on her cell phone, which Simon has been playing with when Harry dropped it. Cooper arrives with back-up and so does Fair. Harry is saved.
This is a sweet book. The animals once again take care of their humans and again save her. They are amazing little creatures, very brave and loyal. I love the Mrs. Murphy stories. This story about the vineyards of Virginia was very interesting, a part of Virginia that I didn’t know very much about.