Mrs. Murphy digs into Virginia history--and gets her paws on a killer.The most popular citizen of Virginia has been dead for nearly 170 years. That hasn't stopped the good people of tiny Crozet, Virginia, from taking pride in every aspect of Thomas Jefferson's life. But when an archaeological dig of the slave quarters at Jefferson's home, Monticello, uncovers a shocking secret, emotions in Crozet run high--dangerously high.
The third Mrs. Murphy mystery, coauthored by novelist Brown and her cat (Mrs. Murphy is also a feline), in which the purring detective must solve a mystery involving the discovery of a body during archeological excavations at Thomas Jefferson's old estate. (Sept.) -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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December 31, 1993
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Excerpt from Murder at Monticello by Rita Mae Brown
Laughing, Mary Minor Haristeen studied the nickel in her upturned palm. Over the likeness of Monticello was inscribed our nation's motto, E Pluribus Unum. She handed the nickel to her older friend, Mrs. Miranda Hogendobber. "What do you think?"
"That nickel isn't worth a red cent." Mrs. Hogendobber pursed her melon-tinted lips. "And the nickel makes Monticello appear so big and impersonal when it's quite the reverse, if you'll forgive the pun."
The two women, one in her mid-thirties and the other at an age she refused to disclose, glanced up from the coin to Monticello's west portico, its windows aglow with candlelight from the parlor behind as the last rays of the early spring sun dipped behind the Blue Ridge Mountains.
If the friends had strolled to the front door of Thomas Jefferson's house, centered in the east portico, and then walked to the edge of the lawn, they would have viewed a sea of green, the ever-flattening topography to Richmond and ultimately to the Atlantic Ocean.
Like most born residents of central Virginia's Albemarle County, Harry Haristeen, as she was known, and Miranda Hogendobber could provide a fascinating tour of Monticello. Miranda would admit to being familiar with the estate since before World War II, but that was all she would admit. Over the decades increasing restoration work on the house itself, the dependencies, and gardens, both food and flowering, had progressed to the point where Monticello was the pride of the entire United States. Over a million out-of-town visitors a year drove up the tricky mountain road to pay their eight dollars, board a jitney bus, and swirl around an even twistier road to the top of the hill and thence the redbrick structure -- each brick fashioned by hand, each hinge pounded out in a smithy, each pane of glass painstakingly blown by a glassmaker, sweating and puffing. Everything about the house suggested individual contribution, imagination, simplicity.
As the tulips braved the quickening western winds, Harry and Mrs. Hogendobber, shivering, walked around the south side of the grounds by the raised terrace. A graceful silver maple anchored the corner where they turned. When they reached the front they paused by the large doors.
"I'm not sure I can stand this." Harry took a deep breath.