I was in a used bookstore and I randomly picked up Murder on the Prowl. I was expecting something like Lillian Jackson Braun’s The Cat Who series, which I loved. Boy was I wrong. The similarities are a rather cranky-snarky protagonist with a powerful independence streak who encounters a lot of murders and ends up solving them with some help from friends and pets. The differences are many, but this isn’t bad. First of all, the main character is the postmistress Harry Haristeen (female) and not a former journalist. Secondly, Harry’s personal life is more complicated. Harry has an ex-husband who wants her back and she kind of still loves him, but she also has the attention of the local hot bachelor, and she might like that attention a little bit as well. Thankfully, she does not get involved with more than one man (I dislike that feature of Joanne Fluke’s baking-based mystery series).
The biggest and most unexpected difference between this and other mystery series featuring humans and their pets is that the pets’ perspective gets featured alongside the main narrative. We are privy to the conversations between Mrs Murphy the intelligent cat, Tucker the corgi, and Pewter the lazy kitty. This could easily get gimmicky, but the relationship between the animals is great. They fight and tease each other, but in the end, they are a family and they stick together. When the narrative switches from the animals perspective to the human, it makes for some great comedic moments as all the humans in the story hear is meowing and barking and wonder what the pets are talking about.
The mystery itself is pretty standard. Some unusual things start to happen (in this case, obituaries appear in the local paper for people who it turns out have not died), followed not too long after by some actual deaths. The dead persons are investigated as are a series of suspects, some of whom have some dark backgrounds that come to light. The animals figure things out before the humans, and Mrs Murphy and co have to try and lead their humans to the answer, and then protect Harry when the murderer comes after her.
Overall, I liked this novel. It’s an entertaining light read, although the mystery gets dark enough to clash a little with the fun of the everyday interactions of Harry, her friends, and the pet crew.