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SANTA CLAWED
by Rita Mae Brown
Bantam, November 2008
256 pages
$25.00
ISBN: 0553807064


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

When "Harry" Haristeen and her husband Fair go to buy a Christmas tree from a hospice run by lay monks, they find one of the monks dead, his throat cut. Though good at solving crimes with the help of her animals, Harry makes an effort not to get involved because investigating crimes had put her marriage in jeopardy once before, and now that she has remarried Fair, she doesn't want to rock the boat.

But Harry's pets have their own agenda in mind. As the dead body count goes higher, the animals talk to each other and discuss clues as they have done while solving crimes in the past. When the pets come across evidence, nothing can stop them from doing their all to find the killer.

Meanwhile Harry's small community is rocked almost off its foundation as more men are found murdered. Though the monks are all men who come from diverse backgrounds, most of them are atoning for crimes they have committed against society. Many of the men used to lead flamboyant lives, but according to all involved the monks are doing a wonderful job of running their hospice for AIDS victims.

When obols, ancient coins that were inserted into dead people's mouths so they can buy their way to a peaceful resting place, were recently stolen and then found in the mouths of the local murdered men, no one knows if it is a clue or a bit of flim-flam being used to confuse the investigators.

This is the seventeenth book in the Mrs Murphy Mystery series and I can tell that long-standing fans will like this book. The animals take the lead as investigators because Harry doesn't want to anger her husband by spending time away from him, but when her animals come up with a stack of money Harry flies out the door to get involved with no thought at all.

I found this book to be a little strange in that it reads as if many of Harry's friends have suddenly discovered that they have homosexual tendencies at mature ages. Harry seems to be a woman in her sixties or seventies while the writer insists that she has just turned forty. The town still is made up of extremely successful people and all involved have rigid opinions about who is worthy in our society. Their views on who is worth sharing a sexual relationship with come across as extremely mean-spirited and unpleasant.

As for the investigating animals that Harry adores, they have the full run of any room they are in. They all have decided long ago that anything they do is enchanting and so if they tear up a room and the things in it, the animals congratulate themselves for being adorable. Harry, as their owner doesn't even try to make them behave. Instead she relies on the good nature of her friends to overlook the destruction her pets spread wherever they go. I can't help but think that these animals are in desperate need of an obedience class.

SANTA CLAWED is only for those who are steady fans of this series and who love spending time with their old beloved characters. As a mystery, an investigation, and series of murders, any reader just coming upon this book will be disappointed to find little in the way of any solid mystery.

Those who love this series will be happy with this Christmas present. But this is the fan base the author has relied on to make this thrown-together tale a seller. For new readers, there is very little to like in SANTA CLAWED.

Reviewed by A.L. Katz, December 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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