cover image The Tell-Tale Horse

The Tell-Tale Horse

Rita Mae Brown, . . Ballantine, $25.95 (278pp) ISBN 978-0-345-49024-7

Enlivened by a large cast of familiar two- and four-legged characters, “Sister” Jane Arnold's sixth adventure in Virginia hunt country (after 2006's The Hounds and the Fury ) opens with the discovery of a nude female corpse tied to an equine shop fixture. The Jefferson Hunt community is appropriately distressed, but master of foxhounds Sister really gets outraged when a valuable trophy goes missing and then turns up in her stable. Suspects abound among the well-heeled and well-mounted but rather undeveloped members of the hunt. Brown's well-researched descriptions of hunting will please aficionados who don't mind her talking-animal conceit, but otherwise the prose is undistinguished; the “useful terms” section at the back is almost superfluous, though the exhaustive dramatis personae in the front is not. The tale is mostly carried by its unusual setting and a rather cozy plot featuring high-tech and financial wizardry. Author tour. (Oct.)