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The Tell-tale Horse: A Novel [Hardcover]

Rita Mae Brown
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Sept. 25 2007
The hunt is on in this new installment of Rita Mae Brown’s clever and engaging series. Only instead of chasing foxes into their dens, the locals must track down a killer and save the life of one of the most beloved folks in town.

It’s February, prime foxhunting season for the members of Virginia’s Jefferson Hunt Club. The girls at Custis Hall are finishing their last semester before heading off to college, the entrepreneurially shrewd Crawford Howard is still smarting from January’s breech in hound etiquette, and the Casanova Hunt Club is hosting their annual ball. New neighbors bring new friendships, and romance is in the air.

Then a shocking event alarms the community. A woman is found brutally murdered, stripped naked, and meticulously placed atop a horse statue outside a tack shop. The theft of a treasured foxhunting prize inside the store may be linked to the grisly scene, and everyone is on edge.

With few clues to go on, “Sister” Jane Arnold, master of the Jefferson Hunt Club, uses her fine-tuned horse sense to try to solve the mystery of this “Lady Godiva” murder. The septuagenarian still has a strong spring in her step and her wits about her, but that may not be enough. As Sister gets closer to the truth, she could become the killer’s next victim.

But humans aren’t the only ones equipped to sniff out the trail. The local foxes, horses, and hounds have their own theories on the whodunit. If only these peculiar people could just listen to them, they’d see that the killer might be right under their oblivious noses.

Once again, this charming southern community finds itself caught up in a bone-chilling tale of murder and greed. It’s up to everyone, two- and four-legged alike, to band together, beat the bushes, and bring to bay the evil forces that have declared the Jefferson Hunt Club fair game–because foul play is never in season.

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From Publishers Weekly

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Brown's latest in the crowd-pleasing Foxhunting series is cleverly named and just as cleverly and compellingly developed. Seventysomething Sister Jane Arnold is Master of the Foxhounds as well as one of the most entertaining amateur sleuths since those of Agatha Christie. She's had more than a few romantic flings with the gentlemen in her circle, and dates a retired accountant. She can easily hold her own in most situations, whether deciphering clues to the latest murder or observing events at the Casanova Hunt Ball, where backbiting whispers and barbed comments are barely concealed by southern gentility: Those marvelous earrings set off your silver hair. I still can't believe you haven't started to color your tresses, darlin'. This time an unidentified nude corpse, dubbed Lady Godiva, is found on Trigger, the life-size horse statue outside the horsey emporium Horse Country, run by Sister's friend Marion, and the hunt is on—for the killer. Brown again proves herself masterful in the newest entry in this charming and engrossing series. Scott, Whitney

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Read this at the Edmonton Public library, now I'm adding it to my library. But the publication in the larger paperbacks is quite expensive unfortunately. Jo-Anne Willman, Edmonton.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.9 out of 5 stars  40 reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars more for fans of the series Sept. 29 2007
By tregatt - Published on
"Tell-Tale Horse," while a well written and a rather enjoyable read, might actually be one "Sister" Jane Arnold installment that is more for fans of the series (& Rita Mae Brown) than for it is mystery readers looking for a compelling read. Don't misunderstand, "Tell -Tale Horse" is a rather absorbing read, even if the author does seem to thrive on going over much of the same material (fox hunting and what it takes to keep a good kennel -- she's gone over much of the same material in previous installments although I will admit that it is interesting to keep track of what's new with the Jefferson Hunt Club ); but I really borrowed the book in hopes of snuggling up with a good mystery. Unfortunately, my hopes were a little dashed here -- the mystery premise was a good one but it felt to me as if it never got the attention that it merited. Which was a shame.

On the way back from a lovely evening at the Casanova Hunt Club's annual ball, "Sister" Jane Arnold (master of the Jefferson Hunt Club) and good friend Marion Maggiolo, are horrified to find the body of a beautiful young woman, naked and carefully placed on top of the statue of a horse that stands outside the tact shop Marion own. Both Jane and Marion are further shocked to discover that the John Barton Payne silver bowl, a treasured fox hunting prize that enjoyed pride of place in the store, has been stolen. Are the two events linked? As the community settles into speculating as to who may behind the "Lady Godiva" murder, "Sister" Jane Arnold resolves to discover the truth in spite of her busy schedule...

I have to admit that as a novel about fox hunting and life in a small Virginian community where everyone knows each other's histories, interests and deepest secrets, "Tell-Tale Horse" is a fairly absorbing read. And really, the author does a wonderful job of painting the scene and developing her characters so that they are more than just names off a page. Though I do think that there are a few too many characters at times, and so many subplots! Perhaps I am a little narrow minded here (all right, I am a being a tad narrow minded) but I really did choose to read this book for it's promising mystery subplot. And I'm really disappointed that the subplot was never really given a chance. The first victim remains an unknown: after a while we learn her name and where she worked but that's about all. The second murder takes place towards the very end of the book, and the murderer is masked by accident. The murderer's motivations are hurriedly sketched in, and there were very little plot twists and practically no red herring suspects. On the other hand, the book is well written and in a very charming and engaging manner. And I did enjoy "Tell Tale Horse" in spite of my disappointment with the sketch mystery subplot. And that's why I'm awarding "Tell-Tale Horse" 3 stars, but recommending it is more for fans of the series and non-mystery readers than anyone else.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Waiting for that good mystery again Oct. 1 2007
By S. Roth - Published on
I was really hopeful that this would be a Rita Mae Brown comeback. I have grown to love the Jane Arnold books and wouldn't miss one, but I keep waiting for a more in depth story. I will say though, that there were things mentioned in this book that point to more interesting story lines in future books. The hunting prose is always good, although some things we have heard for many books and for newbies I guess it's worth repeating. I'd like to see a little more depth to the story, perhaps Crawford will come back and just what do his hounds think of that? I will anxiously await the next book because I've grown to enjoy the Jefferson Hunt as much as I do my own hunt club. I do have to say, the vulgarity from Jane Arnold just doesn't sound like her. Perhaps in her old age she's getting a bit more testy. (I know I am!)
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rita Mae at her best. Nov. 28 2007
By Kat Lodge - Published on
As per usual,complex characters and local flavor are drawn with exquisite and loving detail.
As a horse lover and lover of other creatures both domestic and wild, Rita Mae's writing speaks to my soul.
Kat Lodge, Clarion, Iowa.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars good story, poor editing Feb. 20 2008
By Schwaja - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Beihg a horse person, I avidly read all of Rita Mae Brown's "sister jane" books. While this story is somewhat engaging, I felt the editing and sentence structure were terrible. Every sentence was full of fragments, strung together by an over abundance of commas. Made for a disjointed read. Here's a sample: "Ilona Merriman, hairnet in place, derby correctly placed on her head - which is to say, straight across the brow -rode up to Sister, reined in Tom Tiger, her handy small Thoroughbred, gave a pregnant pause, and then tattled." Almost every sentence is structured this way. Found it very distracting from the storyline.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars What has happened to Rita Mae Brown? Jan. 31 2008
By Horsemom - Published on
Rita Mae Brown can be a wonderful writer. Unfortunately, in this series, and in the Mrs. Murphy series, of late, she seems to have forgotten her audience. The characters are becoming wooden, and the plots are less involved, while Brown spends pages pontificating on various subjects that are not relevant to the story. Pass on this one unless you are really a die-hard fan.
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