Critics and fans alike are wild about Rita Mae Brown's richly imagined and utterly engaging foxhunting mysteries-and this latest novel promises more thrilling hunts, breathtaking vistas, and an all-new sinister scandal. Millions of dollars seem to be missing after a long-overdue audit of the local aluminum plant reveals a major accounting discrepancy. Company president Garvey Stokes finds himself at a loss-in more ways than one. He turns to his sharp-tongued, ornery bookkeeper, Iphigenia "Iffy" Demetrios, for an explanation, but she's no help. Yet when the fuzzy math suddenly includes a body count, the figures can no longer be ignored. While the town sheriff tries to get to the bottom of the matter, leave it to "Sister" Jane Arnold, venerable master of the Jefferson Hunt Club, to rely on her keen horse-and-hound sense to follow the trail of murder and cover-up. Throwing her off the scent, however, is former hunt club donor and all-around cad Crawford Howard, who thinks he can go toe-to-toe with the beloved septuagenarian and outclass her club by grossly sidestepping hound- and-hunt etiquette.
In bestseller Brown's diverting fifth foxhunting mystery (after 2005's The Hunt Ball), "Sister" Jane Arnold, the 73-year-old master of foxhounds at central Virginia's Jefferson Hunt Club, and a host of anthropomorphized dogs, horses, foxes and birds have their work cut out for them. As Sister prepares for the winter hunt, arrogant arriviste Crawford Howard acquires an "outlaw" pack of hounds and proceeds to set up a rival event on land long used by the Jefferson Hunt, a plan that threatens to tear the community apart. "People are like teabags. You never know how strong they are until you put them in hot water," notes Sister, who with her usual panache sorts out a murder, an attempted murder, an insurance scam and a huge sum of money gone missing from a local company. Cozy fans and animal lovers will be charmed, but the general reader may lose patience with the talking critters. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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October 16, 2006
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Excerpt from The Hounds and the Fury by Rita Mae Brown
Silvered with frost, the geometric patterns on the kennel windowpane displayed Nature's gift for design. Sister Jane Arnold stared at the tiny, perfect crystals, then turned back to the large old oak desk in the middle of the office. In warmer weather the back door of the office would be open to the center aisle in this, the main kennel. She found it comforting to inhale the odor of her hounds, to hear them breathing as they slept on their raised beds. Today, Boxing Day, December 26, Monday, the mercury clung to twenty-eight degrees Fahrenheit. The office felt warm at sixty-eight degrees, and she gave a small prayer of thanks that she'd found the money to put in a new heat pump and venting for the main building. The hounds, nestled in their straw-filled beds, threw off body heat, so the thermostat in their portion of the building was kept at forty-two degrees. The actual temperature hovered near fifty. The two medical rooms were warmer. Fortunately, no one was in sick bay.
Christmas culminated in such frenzy that Sister wished Joseph and Mary had been sterile. Sister found Boxing Day one of the happiest days of the year. In England, thousands would turn out in the villages and along country roads to witness hundreds of vigorous folk riding to hounds. The ban on foxhunting, voted by Parliament in 2004 and coming into force February 2005, was a sorry work of class hatred. The first Boxing Day after the ban was 2005, and British foxhunters rode out to a man. Local authorities declined to arrest these men and women. Constables knew that foxhunting benefited the livelihoods of their communities. The bizarre aspect of the foxhunting ban was that not even the most fervid Labor Party members pretended they wished to save foxes. It was perfectly fine with them if the farmers shot the beautiful creatures. The whole point of the ban was to punish those suspected of wealth or title from enjoying themselves. The fact that most English foxhunters were middle-class people was lost in this revenge on the wealthy few. As the Labor Party had created seven hundred new criminal offenses under Tony Blair's leadership, the fact that noncountry people tolerated these infringements on their rights shocked Sister.
She wondered whether Americans, no longer conversant with country life-and worse, feeling superior to it-could become as illiberal as the Laborites. The political push to ban foxhunting in America would start on one of the coasts, but Sister believed it wouldn't succeed. Americans still retained vestiges of common sense. Better yet, Americans did not hunt to kill the fox. They were content to chase the highly intelligent creature until he finally eluded them-easy enough for the fox.
Sister's study chair had rollers on it, and in a burst of enthusiasm she propelled herself around the room and spun backwards.