Rita Mae Brown fervently believes that felines are a lot smarter than most people, and in her popular Mrs. Murphy mysteries, the cats are always leaps and bounds ahead of their human companions. (They also speak in italics, which makes it easy to distinguish them from their somewhat bumbling owner/companions.) In Outfoxed
the foxes, hounds, and a few clever birds solve a murder that's hardly more than a raison d'être for Brown's thorough and detailed description of the highly ritualized world of the Jefferson Hunt. Fox hunting is more than just an entertaining way to spend a fall afternoon in Virginia--it's a way of life for everyone involved, from Sister Jane, the Master of the Fox Hunt, to Crawford Howard and Fontaine Buruss, two men who'd kill for the chance to succeed her. By the time a death actually occurs, Brown is three-fourths of the way to the last page, but it doesn't really matter; by this point, the reader is wholly involved in the arcane world of casts, whippers, scent stations, ratshots, and the social rules of the canid and canine communities. And while a man has been murdered, it's the slaughter of the fox used to lure him to his death that really upsets Sister, the strong-willed matriarch who is the novel's protagonist. The thrill of the chase--the hunt itself, not the search for the killer--is on every page of this masterful foray into a fascinating world. And as usual in a Rita Mae Brown novel, the animals have the best lines as well as the last word. --Jane Adams
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From Publishers Weekly
Set in Virginia's foxhunting country, Brown's latest, anthropomorphic mystery will appeal mainly to devoted fans of her animal-centric Sneaky Pie novels (Cat on the Scent, etc.). Jane Arnold, septuagenarian master of the venerable Jefferson Hunt, is preoccupied, Lear-like, with the question of succession. Whom should she train as joint-master of the foxhunting club: the philandering lightweight Fontaine Buruss, or the philistine Yankee millionaire Crawford Howard, who promises to save the club from financial ruin? While the two unworthy candidates vie shamelessly for the post, Jane (known locally as Sister, despite her matriarchal stature) must also cope with the personal travails of other club members, especially the Franklins, whose two beautiful daughters have become "coke whores." Then, in the middle of the season's opening hunt, Fontaine is found murdered, a fate that rattles Sister not half so much as the simultaneous discovery of a murdered red fox. As the foxes note appreciatively in their subterranean parallel universe, "Sister is one of us"; they also pontificate on human nature, the environment and other species ("Groundhogs have no sense of aesthetics"). Horses, foxhounds and Sister's pet cat Golliwog also hold forth for chapters at a time (Golliwog on why she reads Sister's books: "It's the best way to enjoy an uninterrupted conversation with the best human minds from any century"). Brown, herself a dedicated Virginia foxhunter, clearly knows her fascinating terrain, as well as her steely, charismatic protagonist. But few grown-up readers will buy her depiction of the animal kingdom as a benign world in which furry critters chatter philosophically, while bumbling humans commit savage acts. Author tour.
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