One way I can become immersed in the beauty of autumn is through books, vicariously experiencing the season through the story’s setting and characters. One of those novels that does exactly this is Rita Mae Brown’s The Litter of the Law. The series is set in a small rural farming community called Crozet, Virginia, which is also a real town. The Litter of the Law takes place in October and centers on the protagonist, Mary Minor Haristeen or “Harry” who finds herself caught up in solving a series of bizarre murders as Halloween approaches. However, Harry isn’t the only one doing some sleuthing. Her loyal, loving four-legged feline companions, Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, along with Tee Tucker the corgi are right there beside her, helping to find clues and providing backup in case it’s needed. This little band of quirky sidekicks provides an additional layer of amusement as readers can’t help but get caught up in their non-human, often entertaining, bickering and teasing.
This is the first book I’ve read in the series, and although it can stand alone, I think I would have enjoyed it more if I had started the series from the beginning. The author has created an entire detailed fictional community with lots of characters, townspeople, who have ongoing roles in each installment. Brown does provide a list of the “Cast of Characters” at the beginning of the book to explain each character’s connection to Harry and her family and/or their relevance to the plot. However, trying to remember who‘s who overwhelmed me at times and became a distraction from my enjoying the crux of the book: Harry’s search to discover why people are being murdered in her quiet, little close-knit community.
If I followed the series, I may have been more interested in the chit chat that occurs about various characters in the book even though they aren’t involved in this particular plot. This slowed the pacing of the story and I was bored by some of these non-relevant conversations. However, when I wasn’t distracted by these aspects of the book, I did enjoy trying to connect the clues Harry and the others discover in the scenes leading up to my favorite part of the book: the annual Halloween Hayride. The climax was suspenseful and I wasn’t completely sure who the guilty party was until an elaborate scheme is exposed. Of course, Harry and her entourage prove themselves as worthy heroes by the book’s conclusion.
Another aspect of the plot I really enjoyed is the author’s inclusion of the plight of the Monocan people, Native Americans of Virginia who had been stripped of their rights when the state of Virginia refused to officially recognize this indigenous tribe. The author incorporates their struggles into the plot smoothly and effectively, adding an additional layer of interest to the story.
If you like reading cozy mysteries, then I would recommend checking out this series because, as Brown says, “It takes a cat to write the purr-fect mystery.”
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher to provide an honest review.
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