cover image Sour Puss

Sour Puss

Rita Mae Brown, Wendy Holden, . . Bantam, $25 (246pp) ISBN 978-0-553-80362-4

The 13th Mrs. Murphy mystery from bestseller Brown and her feline collaborator (after 2005's Cat's Eyewitness ) opens with the comic-opera remarriage of series heroine Harry Haristeen and Fair, Harry's veterinarian ex-husband, reintroducing at length some familiar characters before turning to the novel's main focus—the vagaries of the burgeoning wine industry in the Virginia Piedmont. The prospect of having your own label or selling at a profit to another winery is too good to pass up, and even Harry and Fair have put in a quarter acre of Petit Manseng grapes. But someone is trying to scare off the competition, and the disappearance of a respected expert in the mutation of toxins sets Harry's talking pets—cats Mrs. Murphy and Pewter and corgi Tee Tucker—on the sleuthing trail. When a longstanding feud between rival vintners leads to murder, Harry has to read the clues before attrition gives us the answers. Brown provides a captivating look at grape growing and the passionate dedication it requires. (Mar.)