The Hunt Ball

Rita Mae Brown, Author . Ballantine $24.95 (310p) ISBN 978-0-345-46549-8

The most appealing characters in Brown's underplotted new mystery are the animals, even without Sneaky Pie's coauthorship. Septuagenarian "Sister" Jane Arnold, the Master of the central Virginia Jefferson Hunt Club, returns from Brown hunt titles like Outfoxed to solve the murder of a local prep school teacher. Not a snob when it comes to class or looks, Sister is a tremendous snob regarding hunt etiquette and respect for animals. And in Brown's fictive world, every fox, hound, horse, dog and bird is given a name, personality, backstory and dialogue. All can converse with each other—and understand the humans—while Sister has the ability to sense what the animals are thinking. The hunt scenes are luminous; the plot is obligatory, if premised on politically inspiring grounds. When a group of students stages a demonstration focused on the unacknowledged role of slaves in the prep school's history, and a beloved staff member is found murdered, things get tense at Custis Hall. But the impending annual hunt ball (scene, of course, of the eventual denouement) provides ample distraction. No foxes were harmed in the writing of this book. (On sale Aug. 30)

Reviewed on: 07/11/2005
Release date: 08/01/2005
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