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Pay Dirt

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Three murders, a computer virus, and $2 million of missing money have never been so uninspired: This mystery is in serious need of some antidepressants. Cowritten by Rita Mae Brown and her pet cat, collaborators on three previous mysteries, the story is set in Crozet, Va., a town with 1,733 inhabitants, most of whom make an appearance. The unwieldy cast of characters, headed by postmistress Mary Minor ”Harry” Haristeen and her talking animals (a dog who quotes Shakespeare and a cat who turns radio dials), spends its time gossiping and eating pastries. You would think that, with all the conversation, something interesting would get said. Wrong. Even the animals in Pay Dirt are dull. The illustrations don’t help at all. Neither does the chance to mail-order cat toys and feline-inspired T-shirts, although the mystery novel-cum-mail-order catalog may qualify as a new literary sub-genre. D