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Murder among the posh in Virginia

‘Sister’ Jane Arnold  is on the hunt for another murderer

By Cathy Jett

The Free Lance-Star

VIRGINIA author Rita Mae Brown is probably best known for her Sneaky Pie Brown mystery series.

But it’s her “Sister” Jane Arnold series that’s  likely closest to her heart.

Brown, like her intrepid main character, is the master of fox hounds for a hunt club in rural Albemarle County, and her knowledge of the sport gives these mysteries  a unique flavor.

For the uninitiated, the books open up a world bound by tradition, camaraderie and the sort of power plays not unexpected among the wealthy and ambitious. For those who thrill to the sound of hounds baying and hooves thundering across farm fields, Brown’s descriptions of hunts are almost as good as being there.

It doesn’t hurt, either, that Sister is a formidable creation, a 73-year-old widow whose active lifestyle has kept her body fit and her senses sharp. They’re just what she needs to cope with the various murders and mysteries that come her way with unnerving regularity.

“Fox Tracks,” the eighth in the series, opens with Sister and some of her friends in New York City to attend the Masters of Foxhounds Association’s annual ball. While there, she visits a  Madison Avenue cigar shop to buy cigars for her boyfriend and is charmed by the owner, Adolfo Galdos.

Sister accidently leaves her cellphone on the counter. When she returns to retrieve it, she discovers his body on the floor. He’d  been shot neatly between the eyes, and  a pack of American Smokes cigarettes had been left on his chest.

A second cigar store owner is killed in the same mysterious manner as Galdos, and it doesn’t take long for Arnold’s finely tuned “horse sense” to link the cases and come up with a theory. It involves her beloved rural Virginia, where tobacco once was king and cigarette taxes are now among the lowest in the country.

And that isn’t all she has to deal with. There’s her arch nemesis, the filthy rich Crawford Howard, who hasn’t given up his attempts to undermine the Sister’s hunt club and steal one of its members. A dead neighbor is found during a fox hunt. And someone is more than willing to shoot at those who appear a little too interested in other people’s business for their own good—including Sister.

Like all good mysteries, this one ends with a hairsbreadth escape and a surprise reveal. Readers’ hearts will be beating as fast as if they were on a hunt themselves.

Cathy Jett is assistant business editor of The Free Lance–Star.


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