The Enigma of Iris Murphy


The Enigma of Iris Murphy

Maureen Millea Smith


Synopsis:  A prison’s visitation room; a veterinarian who understands the thoughts of animals; an Omaha police sergeant; a banking executive who consoles her dying friend; a librarian who sleeps with giraffes; an elegant grifter whose well-behaved grandsons disguise her sleight of hand thefts—all linked by the life of Iris Murphy.


ISBN: 978-1-60489-167-6  Hard cover $30.00  Sale Price $22.00

ISBN: 978-1-60489-168-3  Trade paper $17.95    Sale Price: $11.95


194 Pages

  About the Author: 

Maureen Millea Smith is the author of the novel, When Charlotte Comes Home, which won the Minnesota Book Award for Novel & Short Story in 2007.  Her essay “In Charlotte’s Web” was published in Minnesota Literature in December 2003 and was chosen as the winner of the 2003 Minnesota Literature essay contest. She won The Tartt’s First Fiction Prize for a first collection of short fiction for The Enigma of Iris Murphy: Stories. It will be published in 2016.



 Excerpt from the Book:

Pardon Palimpsest

      They smell Iris Murphy before they see her.

      She wears a faint scent that could best be described as clean and comforting and probably expensive and not sold at Target. Or at least this is how Kenneth Yellow Dog has always thought of her perfume. It wafts into the visitation area of the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln announcing her. The convicted and their guests pause to inhale, momentarily stopping their conversations. Seconds later when she walks into the room heads turn.  

       “The Bird, The Bird,” they say in astonishment to one another.

        The convicts all know that this is a rare sighting. Rumor has it, that she is afraid of prisons and that bars and razor wire send her into panic attacks. What they know about Iris Murphy is what they’ve heard about her. Some somebody telling another somebody a story that another guy’s cousin swears to be the truth about this public defender. They believe it, though. For them it is immutable, a fact, a law of the physics that defines the gravity of their world. In this way, as in many ways, felons are like all other human beings. Their beliefs are based on stories.

        When a visitor shouts out,

        “Hey, Ms. Murphy!”

         This draws a wary prison guard’s attention.

         “You know the rules, keep to your own conversation,” he barks in warning at the speaker and to everyone else in the room. “This ain’t the neighborhood.”