Read Hiss of Death: A Mrs. Murphy Mystery Online

Authors: Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown

Hiss of Death: A Mrs. Murphy Mystery

Books by Rita Mae Brown & Sneaky Pie Brown

WISH YOU WERE HERE•REST IN PIECES
MURDER AT MONTICELLO•PAY DIRT•MURDER, SHE MEOWED
MURDER ON THE PROWL•CAT ON THE SCENT
SNEAKY PIE’S COOKBOOK FOR MYSTERY LOVERS
PAWING THROUGH THE PAST•CLAWS AND EFFECT
CATCH AS CAT CAN•THE TAIL OF THE TIP-OFF
WHISKER OF EVIL•CAT’S EYEWITNESS•SOUR PUSS
PUSS ’N CAHOOTS•THE PURRFECT MURDER•SANTA CLAWED
CAT OF THE CENTURY•HISS OF DEATH

Books by Rita Mae Brown with “Sister” Jane Arnold in the Outfoxed Series

OUTFOXED•HOTSPUR•FULL CRY•THE HUNT BALL
THE HOUNDS AND THE FURY•THE TELL-TALE HORSE
HOUNDED TO DEATH

Books by Rita Mae Brown

A NOSE FOR JUSTICE•ANIMAL MAGNETISM:
MY LIFE WITH CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL
THE HAND THAT CRADLES THE ROCK
SONGS TO A HANDSOME WOMAN•THE PLAIN BROWN RAPPER
RUBYFRUIT JUNGLE•IN HER DAY•SIX OF ONE
SOUTHERN DISCOMFORT•SUDDEN DEATH•HIGH HEARTS
STARTED FROM SCRATCH: A DIFFERENT KIND OF WRITER’S MANUAL
BINGO•VENUS ENVY
DOLLEY: A NOVEL OF DOLLEY MADISON IN LOVE AND WAR
RIDING SHOTGUN•RITA WILL: MEMOIR OF A LITERARY RABBLE-ROUSER
LOOSE LIPS•ALMA MATER•SAND CASTLE

Hiss of Death
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2011 by American Artists, Inc.

Illustrations copyright © 2011 by Michael Gellatly

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Bantam Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

BANTAM BOOKS
and the rooster colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication
Data Brown, Rita Mae.
Hiss of death : a Mrs. Murphy mystery / by Rita Mae Brown & Sneaky Pie Brown; illustrations by Michael Gellatly.
p. cm.
eISBN: 978-0-553-90808-4
1. Haristeen, Harry (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. Murphy, Mrs. (Fictitious character)—Fiction.
3. Women detectives—Virginia—Fiction. 4. Cats—Fiction. 5. Virginia—Fiction. I. Title.
PS3552.R698H57 2011
813′.54—dc22 2010047836

www.­bantamdell.­com

Cover design: Beverly Leung
Cover illustration: © Daniel Pelvin (cat), © Shutterstock/MisterElements (yarn)

v3.1

Dedicated with admiration
to
Lima
the Texas cat who saved her human from a pit bull attack

Contents
Cast of Characters

Mary Minor Haristeen, “Harry”
—Hardworking, frugal, forty, and good-looking, although she doesn’t think so. Her curiosity might kill her as well as her cats.

Pharamond Haristeen, D.V.M., “Fair”
—He loves his work, his wife, and his farm. At forty-two, he’s known Harry all of his life. He accepts her for herself, despite the fact that she all too often courts danger.

Susan Tucker
—Harry’s best friend since cradle days, she tries to act as the brake on Harry’s speed. It rarely works. Her two children are in college and graduate school; her husband was elected to the statehouse a year ago.

Cory Schaeffer, M.D
.—A surgeon acquiring a big reputation, he thinks he’s smarter than most everybody else. He does care about medicine, and he wants to improve people’s lives.

Annalise Vernonese, M.D
.—As a pathologist, she sees the ravages diseases and addictions can do to the body. She is passionate about health and fitness.

Paula Benton
—A much-respected operating-room nurse, she is very detail-oriented as well as occasionally direct. Then again, she’s not from the South, so she sees this as a virtue.

Toni Enright
—Another respected operating-room nurse, she works out at Heavy Metal Gym with Annalise. She figures if you’re fit, you can fight much of what life throws at you.

Thadia Martin
—Once a gifted athlete and a pretty girl, she blew up her life on drugs. After serving a prison sentence and recovering from her problem, she now counsels others who are battling addictions.

Noddy Cespedes
—Now in her forties, Noddy had a wonderful career as a bodybuilder. She owns Heavy Metal Gym, is completely committed to pushing iron as a way to avoid many conditions, not the least being osteoporosis. She’s a formidable presence.

Big Al and Nita Vitebsk
—In their fifties, they own Pinnacle Records as well as a mutt named JoJo. Both are active in the community and stalwarts at the Reformed Temple.

Franny Howard
—She is a member of a cancer support group, has a good sense of humor, and owns a tire store. She believes regardless of what you paid for your vehicle, it’s only as good as the tires on it. She has a point.

BoomBoom Craycroft
—A real bombshell, she is another one of Harry’s childhood friends. Their relationship has been on again and off again. Now it’s on. She owns her late husband’s concrete business but has turned over day-to-day handling to a manager.

Alicia Palmer
—One of the most beautiful women of her generation, she is a former movie star in her fifties and finally truly happy. It was a long, hard road to get there.

The Reverend Herbert Jones
—As Pastor of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, he guides his flock with humor, insight, and quiet encouragement. He’s not much evident in this particular volume, but he’s always there when his parishioners or anyone else needs him.

The Really Important Characters

Mrs. Murphy
—She’s a sleek tiger cat in her prime who has less curiosity and more sense than her human.

Pewter
—A sometimes-petulant gray cannonball of a cat who can’t believe how limited humans are. She does not suffer in silence.

Tee Tucker
—Alert and sagacious, she’s like every other corgi—pound for pound, quite a dog. She loves her humans, horses, and even the cats.

Tomahawk
—A seventeen-year-old Thoroughbred, he’s what horsemen call typy, looking exactly like a TB should. He’s usually turned out with Shortro, a young horse whom he guides.

Shortro
—A five-year-old Saddlebred being trained for hunt seat. He can jump the moon and is very people-oriented.

Simon
—This possum lives in Harry’s hayloft and has a sweet tooth.

Flatface
—The great horned owl lives in the cupola of the barn.

Matilda
—The blacksnake also lives in the barn, and she’s grown to nearly four feet. She’s made a cozy nest in the hayloft in the back, and has been there for years, emerging after hibernation. As the spring nights are still cold, she returns to her nest at sundown.

M
oldy money.” Susan Tucker jabbed her best friend, Harry Haristeen, with her elbow.

“Come on, you all, I’m cautious with money. That doesn’t mean I’m cheap,” Harry said, defending herself.

“Cautious? How about paralyzed?” BoomBoom Craycroft, another friend from childhood, said, laughing.

“My concern is I want to make as much money as possible for our five-K run this Saturday. I just think a thousand pink rubber bracelets is five hundred too many.”

Paula Benton, an ER nurse at Central Virginia Hospital and one of the prime organizers of the 5K Run for Breast Cancer Awareness, said, “Harry, they’re already here. What’s the point of complaining?”

Toni Enright, another operating-room nurse, agreed. “They’ll sell like hotcakes. Think positive, Harry.”

“I know. I know. I’m sorry. I just get nervous. Hey, we all have our quirks. I know a nurse who can’t give herself a shot.”

Paula reached over to pinch Harry. “No fair.”

“ ’Fess up,” Harry teased her. “If you all are going to pick on me, I’ll pick back.”

“Paula, are you really afraid to give yourself a shot?” Susan queried. “I thought you were allergic to bees, wasps, and hornets. Don’t you have to carry a little kit around? Shoot yourself up with the antidote?”

Paula rolled her eyes. “Luckily, I’ve never had to use it as an adult. Mom shot me up once. I suppose I could do it, but it just creeps me right out.” She playfully lunged for Harry. “I could hit you up, though.”

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