Cat on the Scent

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Rita Mae Brown, critically acclaimed for novels such as Rubyfruit Jungle (1973) and Southern Discomfort (1982), has collaborated with her cat Sneaky Pie on a series of mysteries of which Cat on the Scent is the seventh. And as one might expect, the most perceptive detectives include two cats, Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, and a corgi named Tucker who live with their “mom” nicknamed Harry, in a small Virginia town, a town embroiled in developmental and environmental concerns involving the water supply.

Harry, as postmistress, knows everyone: Blair Bainbridge, a model who commands top fees now but realizes that as he ages his earnings will diminish; Tommy Van Allen, the playboy owner of a large construction firm whose disappearance is the first suggestion of trouble in the small town; Sir H. Vane-Tempest, a transplanted Englishman who considers that maybe, just maybe, the Windsors rank above him; Sara, his trophy wife, who, like Blair, knows that her beauty determines her financial security; and Archie, not wealthy like the others but just as greedy and as a county commissioner privy to knowledge that can be very useful and highly profitable to some.

The concern over Tommy’s disappearance is set aside by the excitement of the upcoming Civil War reenactment. However during the battle, Sir H. Is wounded by real bullets. Was it an accident? Or is there some connection between Tommy and Sir H. Vane- Tempest? Arson, another murder, and attempted murder occur. The humans are puzzled, but the two cats and dog sift through clues and solve the mystery. Of course, the difficult part comes in communicating their information to the humans in charge.

With Cat on the Scent, Rita Mae Brown has given the reader a clever mystery with an interesting trove of characters including the anthropomorphic Murphy, Pewter, and Tucker.