From best-selling author Rita Mae Brown, another clever, endearing story in the Foxhunting mystery series. Lushly described scenes from the hunt, talking animals who help solve the murder, and the beloved Sister Jane reunite to continue the New York Times best-selling mystery series. Book five, which focuses on the hound, draws us into the murky financial scandals of foxhunting society-including a sharp-tongued, wheelchair-bound hellion of a bookkeeper, and a rich former hunt club donor who thinks he can out-class the intrepid Sister Jane with the purchase of his own pack of hounds. Only Sister Jane, along with her furry friends who, per usual, discuss the intrigues amongst themselves, is able to uncover the mystery of the missing money and the dead body! Keep in mind, in American foxhunting, the foxes always get away-so this is a series for animal lovers as well as the sporting crowd!
About the Author
Rita Mae Brown is the bestselling author of the Sneaky Pie Brown series; the Sister Jane series; A Nose for Justice and Murder Unleashed; Rubyfruit Jungle; In Her Day; and Six of One, as well as several other novels. An Emmy-nominated screenwriter and a poet, Brown lives in Afton, Virginia.
Read an Excerpt
The Hounds and the Fury
By Rita Mae Brown
Rita Mae Brown
All right reserved.
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. Thefirst 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.
Shaker Crown, the huntsman, opened the front door at this moment. "Someone's happy."
"Three hundred and sixty-four days until next Christmas. Thank you, Jesus." She braked, putting both feet on the ground.
They burst out laughing.
"Hounds had a wonderful Christmas. Nothing like warm stew. I remember watching my father cook it up outside. The pot was large enough to hold three missionaries."
He smiled. "Horses liked their treats, too, as did I. Thank you for my Dehner boots and my bug guard."
"Do you think they really work?"
"Bug guards?" He paused. "Not now."
"I deserved that." She rolled her eyes at his droll remark. They wouldn't work now because it was winter, hence no insects were flying around outside.
"Sure they work. That curve at the top sends the bugs away from the windshield."
"Maybe I should get one for my GMC. You know, I'm still getting used to it. Drove the other one 287,000 miles and buried it with honors." She smiled at him. "I actually considered parking it in front of the kennel and making a huge planter out of it."
"You cut the bed off the truck and use it for a wagon." He pretended to think hard. "Could still fill with dirt and spring bulbs."
"No point wasting something that can be useful. All I had to do was sand the edges so we wouldn't cut ourselves, put a Reese hitch on it. If nothing else, we can put a big old water tank up there, and I can water my trees on the drive if another drought comes." She crossed herself as if warding off the evil eye, for droughts caused terrible damage.
"Heard anything?" After crossing himself, Shaker changed the subject.
"Not a peep."
He sat on the edge of the desk as she rolled back to it, replying, "He'll be vicious."
"Marty can't calm him down?" Shaker named Crawford Howard's wife.
"Crawford was publicly humiliated. Even the ministrations of his good wife won't help. His ego is in a gaseous state, ever expanding." Sister threw up her hands, exasperated.
"He deserved it, loading hounds up like that, then setting them loose during the hunt ball."
"Of course he did! After you belted him, he knew he couldn't stand up to you, so unleashing hounds was his revenge. And a damned sorry one. He wasn't entirely sober, which only made matters worse. He's lucky I only slapped him."
"Hard. Everyone in the room heard that crack." Shaker relished the recollection.
"Too bad I didn't have a roll of nickels in my palm. Then I'd have broken his jaw. Now, that's a happy thought, Crawford Howard with his jaw wired shut."
"Strange we haven't heard anything. Betty hasn't, either. I called her."
"You surprise me." Sister didn't expect him to call Betty Franklin, one of her best friends, an honorary whipper-in.
He folded his arms across his chest. "I didn't get us in this mess, but I made it worse."
"When a man pulls down your fiancée's evening gown, even if he was pushed and tripped, most of us can understand the response."
"Poor Lorraine. She's still embarrassed."
"Honey, any woman with that rack should never be embarrassed. Entire careers have been built on less."
He smiled. "She's a beautiful woman."
"She is. You two are a good pair and a good-looking pair to boot."
He walked over to the kennel-side door. "Sound asleep."
"I often envy them. They are loved, have the best of care, and do what they were born to do. Think of the millions of people in this world struggling at jobs that aren't right for them. They might be flourishing financially, but deep in their hearts, they know this isn't what they should be doing with their lives--and, oh, Shaker, how fast the time slips away."
"Got that right." He returned to the desk. "Hope we can hunt tomorrow."
"Me, too, but feel the storm coming? Truth is in the bones."
"Seen the sky in the last hour?"
"No, I've been in here rooting through the old stud books."
"Look." He opened the front door, and they both stepped out into the biting air.
Gunmetal-gray clouds stacked up behind the Blue Ridge Mountains.
"Moving faster than the Weather Channel predicted." She noticed the tops of trees swaying slightly. "Going to be a big one. We'd better get all the generators in place, just in case."
"Already did. Up at your house, too."
Relief filled her voice. "Thank you."
"Rather deal with snow than ice."
"Boss, you think Crawford will sue?"
"He doesn't have much of a case. It would be a hardship on us, of course, but ultimately it would be worse for him. My hunch is he'll forego that and do something where he can use his wealth as leverage."
"Like withdraw his support to the club?"
"That's a given." She rubbed her shoulders. "It will hurt, too. His largesse covered about 25 percent of our annual budget."
"He'll go to Farmington Hunt or Keswick, maybe even Deep Run, and throw money at them. If he can keep his ego in check, he might even get along with most of them. What master doesn't need money for the club?" Shaker put his arm through hers, and they stepped back into the office. Sister settled back into the warmth of the office, glad the door was closed. "Ego is the key word."
"Hard on Sam."
Sam Lorillard of the Lorillards, an African-American family that had been in the country since before the Revolutionary War, possessed both intellectual and athletic brilliance. Unfortunately, a tendency toward alcoholism had also passed from generation to generation among both the white and black Lorillards. Gray, Sam's older brother and Sister's boyfriend, had escaped it. Sam had not. He was currently sober after much suffering. Attending Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings helped.
The black Lorillards had taken the name of their owners, common enough in the Old South. Not even the pull of convention or ideology could keep the two sides of this vast family apart. A Lorillard stayed a Lorillard.
Excerpted from The Hounds and the Fury
by Rita Mae Brown Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
As always, Brown delivers a hunt with twists and turns. Her clever storyline and knowledge of the hunt keep me reading.
Another hit. Makes me want to ride to the hounds!
Entertaining, but not quite up to the standard of previous series entries. No body until half-way through (though the victim-to-be was obvious much earlier in). Less direct involvement and chat from the foxes, hounds and horses.
I got to about the second chapter and thought that this book seemed familiar. It was--I had read it before! And why would I not remember that? Because it was so utterly forgettable! Unless you are someone involved in the hunt, this book will bore you to death. It has too many, way too many, characters in it! Rita needs to stick to the Mrs. Murphy series and to keep from using those books as a soapbox for her beliefs. It is lite fiction, for crying out loud, not a Masters level credit for college!
Love the fox hunt books, I've learned a lot about fox hunting. Just great reading.
I listened to 'The Hounds and the Fury' on audiobook during my daily commutes to and from work and would give it an overall rating of 3 stars. I tend to think I would have enjoyed the story more if I had read it in a paper format, as I found Rita Mae Brown to be a fairly unstimulating narrator as audiobooks go. The story started off slowly and I considered ditching it for another set of discs, but in the end I'm glad I stuck with it. I don't know anything about fox hunting, but it seems like the author is very committed to accuracy when it comes to writing about the subject, so I would guess that fans of fox hunting would find this to be an enjoyable read. I found myself a little irritated by the dialogue of the Custis Hall girls, as I think the author is slightly out of touch with teen girls and doesn't voice them very realistically. Steer clear of this one if you're not a fan of talking animals.
In keeping with Brown's knowledge of horses, hounds, and hunting, this book had its moments of hilarity, intrigue, and murder par excellence! Unlike the criticism by "Anonymous", I revelled in Brown's in-depth description of Foxhunting; perhaps this goes back to my younger days as a student when I took riding lessons and learned the fine art of tea at 2 pm and Foxhunting with the other "elegant young horsewomen". Unlike Sister, however, my age and spinal disability prevent me from continuing the love of hunting and Rohirrims Anduril, my Hanoverian, enjoys the grace of dressage. I can live the joy of foxhunting vicariously through Brown's avid and detailed description of a very well-loved sport. And, unlike across the Pond, we don't kill our foxes -- thankfully we don't adhere to that barbaric aspect of the tradition. I wish she wrote more books devoted to her horses and Matilda, giving them equal time to Sneaky Pie!
In Virginia, septuagenarian ¿Sister¿ Jane Arnold is the grand mistress of the foxhounds at the Jefferson Hunt Club. Though crusty she is normally friendly to man and beast though she finds the four legged species much kinder than the two legged animal. However, Jane does not like two new club members due to their cavalier attitude towards tradition.----------------- Affluent Crawford Howard disrespects everyone especially Jane when he deems their antiquated methodology holds him back he commits the ultimate insult when he purchase foxhounds to form his own rival club. Cancer specialist Jason Woods expects VIP special treatment from the JHC especially Jane, but even long time members do not get superior handling and Sister tries to ignore him. Meanwhile Jane¿s companion Gray Lorillard audits the books of a local company only to learn Iphigenia ¿Iffy¿ Demetrios has been withdrawing money from it for years. Not long afterward someone murders Iffy and wounds Gray's brother. Jane and her four legged buddies conclude that someone fears what else the audit will reveal.------------------ The villain is obvious and the story line with talking animals used by Rita Mae Brown in this series (see FULL CRY) and her other major series (Mrs. Murphy) will delight her fans who will definitely want to read this charming cozy. The talk with the animals¿ whodunit is fun to follow as Sister and her four legged pals investigate the murder and the apparent attempted murder where she assumes Gray was the target. Fans of Ms. Brown will enjoy her latest personification mystery.------------- Harriet Klausner
(Where is the lake? O.o)
While I usually like Browns' books on 'sister' Jane, this was not one of them. I felt she had way too many descriptions of fox hungting, hounds, etc....I got too bogged dwon on all of them and lost sight of the story. I picked out the suspects and guilty ones earlier...not much suspense there. Looking forward to the new Sneaky Pie book in Feb.