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I have a soft spot for the Mrs Murphy books as this was the series that got me addicted to cozy mysteries, but the last five books haven’t been so great – a trend that has continued with this recent addition.

The plot is that Aunt Tally is turning 100 and there are an abundance of celebrations, mostly centred around William Woods University alumnae association, one of whom gets murdered.  She is joined by her best friend and Fair’s mentor, Inez, who is a vet and an active member of the University alumnae activities and they try to figure out the murder.

I cannot say how much of a let down this book was for me.  It seems that it is just a vehicle for political soap boxing about the environment, the government, politics, culture and drugs.  While some authors bring up certain issues as a way of educating the reader and broadening awareness (for example the Booktown mysteries), I get the feeling that Rita Mae Brown likes a damn good rant, but forgets that there is a time and a place for such things.  I’d like to think that I am informed in political and environmental matters, but I don’t read cozy books to have a lecture and it seems that the mystery part of Cat of the Century is just a tenuous link between rants.

There was an absence of the usual characters  such as Miranda, the Rev, Blair and Susan, with just the briefest appearance of Coop, Little Mim and Mim.   The bulk of the story centred around the alumnae association, all of whom were instantly irritating.  One of the benefits of a series is that the reader has a connection and invested interest with the characters which works in the favour of the author when forming the different strands of a mystery.  Introducing a new cast of characters means that you need a really strong plot line to maintain this connection,  which this book didn’t have and when it came down to it, the new characters were so one-dimensional that I didn’t care who got murdered, who was falsely accused or who the murderer was.

Frustratingly I had figured out who the murderer was half way through the book.  When this happens I always feel a little cheated and the whole ‘white sand’ nonsense as a concept was just idiotic.  If only Rita Mae Brown put as much effort into creating a decent mystery plot as she did with her heavy-handed political lectures.

What it boils down to, is that every book in a series that is substandard, takes the shine off of the other books that were good and after a while, the whole series becomes tainted.  It doesn’t feel like Rita Mae Brown actually likes writing these books anymore and if that is the case, then she should just move on.

With great sadness, I am not sure that I’d want to read any future books in the series, and if I did, then I’d get a copy from the library – there are far better books for me to spend my money on.  Fans of the series, stay away.

http://www.ritamaebrown.com

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