an irritating immigration mystery
I found this latest installment in Rita Mae Brown‘s Mrs. Murphy series a bit of a mixed bag. The newly re-married Harry and Fair (Mary Minor and Pharamond) Haristeen have driven to Kentucky for a major horse show. The usual Crozet gang do not appear at all this time out, more or less doubling the number of new characters to be introduced in the first few chapters. I found the book difficult to get into and the large cast of strangers tough to get a handle on.
Once the first murder occurs, the pace does pick up. Those who have read the earlier Mrs. Murphy titles or especially Brown’s fox hunting mysteries will be right at home in the horse show milieu and the book is in many ways Brown’s usual mystery offering.
A bit more than half way into the book, the INS conducts a raid on the horse show, arresting many of the illegal immigrants who work for the stables and trainers and this was where I started to really have trouble. I have been a fan of Rita Mae Brown’s books for more than twenty years now. When she avoids politics and does fiction, she can be brilliant and wonderful but I don’t think I will ever understand where this woman is coming from politically. When she talks about sexuality and individual rights she sounds like a capital L Liberal. But when the topic is taxation or property she seems to become a capital R Republican.
And then this issue of illegal immigration seems to re-draw these lines rather strangely, and to a large extent I find myself cast uncomfortably on the side of the freepers.
I believe that illegal immigrants depress wages for all Americans and utterly reject the argument that we must have illegal immigrants because there are so many jobs that American’s just won’t do. (It seems to me that argument is really an insistence on being allowed to have illegal immigrants so as not to be forced to provide the level of wages, benefits and working conditions most Americans would likely demand.) Certainly, I believe that America should continue to welcome immigrants, that we should develop a fair process for rationing the privilege of coming here that takes into account both the needs of business for additional labor and the limits of our resources to care for, succor and support new arrivals, while actively and effectively enforcing our immigration laws, primarily through stiff financial and criminal penalties for those who employ illegals.
The "compromise" immigration reform currently being debated in Washington does none of this.
After the INS raid, which Brown’s characters universally and bitterly scorn, using the argument above along with a disingenuous paean to the skills and work ethics of the laborers in question, the story picks up again along the usual lines and in the end it is revealed that the murder was committed to silence a partner in an immigrant smuggling scheme whose increasingly cold feet threatened to expose the deal.
Lately it seems the only writing Ms. Brown does are these Mrs. Murphy and foxhunting mysteries. I found myself really wishing she would come out with another of her wonderful non-genre novels and that she had refrained from inserting one of the current hot button political issues into her usual mystery formula.