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Hounded to Death    by Rita Mae Brown order for
Hounded to Death
by Rita Mae Brown
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2009 (2008)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Hounded to Death is the seventh in Rita Mae Brown's popular "Sister" Jane Foxhunting mystery series. (For those turned off by the very idea of foxhunting, readers are informed early in the story that the fox isn't killed in the US sport.) Having missed the earlier episodes, I was unsure of what to expect and was daunted by the large cast of characters - humans, American foxhounds, horses, foxes, birds and house pets - as well as the six page glossary of hunting terms at the beginning.

And the characters, human and critters, are hard to track for the Foxhunting Mystery newbie. That aside, the author delivers an engaging cozy with a good puzzle and a delightful range of players, including Shaker Crown and a close trio of young women who've just graduated from Custis Hall - Felicity, Val and Tootie. Sister Jane (master of the Jefferson Hunt Club) herself is a joy to spend time with - I turned the pages for shippets of her philosophy - like 'You wrap crimes in the flag, or a dollar bill, and suddenly everyone looks the other way' or that euphemisms 'are for people who can't face life' - as much as for the mystery. Sister has a deep 'love of the environment, belief in the protection of American farmland, and respect for all living creatures.'

This latest episode begins with the murder of an obnoxious show competitor (Mo Schneider who's 'cruel to hounds, horses, and women') at the Mid-South Hound Show. Though no-one feels much grief over Mo's death by rat shot (especially after he steals Sister's young hound), she and her train of helpers are increasingly disturbed by the string of deaths that follow, especially by that of esteemed veterinarian Hope Rogers. Hope's shooting is believed to be a suicide by law enforcement, but not by Sister. Her probing into these events turns up a scheme to pass off cheap bourbon as high grade abroad, as well as a common theme amongst most of the victims - cruelty to animals.

Animal lovers will appreciate all of Rita Mae Brown's mysteries for their credible (at least to anyone who lives closely with other critters) insights into animals' musings on human behavior. Add to that a solid cozy and elderly Sister's strong passion for life and against injustice and you have another enjoyable read in Hounded to Death.

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