At the end of a long day or on my lunch hour, I crave escape. While much of my reading is nonfiction, I enjoy a good mystery, especially if the series has well-drawn, appealing characters. One such author is Rita Mae Brown, who has written numerous books and has other series (some written with Sneaky Pie Brown) as well.
This title stars “Sister” Jane, who is Master of Foxhounds in a town located in the Blue Ridge Mountains. In Crazy Like a Fox, Brown effortlessly weaves in lore about the history of Virginia, the animals in the area, and her beloved fox hounds. Sister Jane is no cute young chick, but an attractive, lean woman in her early seventies. Recurring characters include Tootie, a young African-American college student who is working for Sister; Crawford Howard, a well-to-do brash homeowner who has an unregistered (outlaw) pack of foxhounds, and numerous animals. If you start in the middle of the series, there’s a helpful “Cast of Characters” at the beginning of each book and a summary of their quirks.
Personally, I enjoy the animals as much as the humans. Bitsy is a small screech owl who loves to gossip, while the foxhounds bicker and compete among themselves. Their thoughts about humans and other critters bring rich humor and clues to the narratives.
Who stole the valuable old hunting horn, also called a “cow horn,” from a museum display? Its owner, Wesley Carruthers, aka Weevil, disappeared in 1954. Decades later, his hunting horn is stolen, and its haunting echoes played at the end at various hunt events. According to all accounts, Weevil was a charming ladies’ man, but still a good person. People just assumed he was dead, until a video of Weevil playing the missing hunting horn, appears on someone’s cell phone. What the….?
In between managing her property, taking care of the animals and dealing with all the challenges of being Hunt Master, Sister Jane questions people who knew Weevil and his numerous (hushed-up) dalliances. She pores over old records seeking information. Meanwhile, Weevil continues to make appearances, such as walking with an elderly lady for a short distance before disappearing. He appears on horseback near Tootie, showing her a little-known shortcut during a fox hunt. Both ladies insist this was a solid, living person—or was he?
Although I suspected the ending, the motives for Weevil’s disappearance were entangled with events going back decades. The characters and their motives provided an engaging puzzle. Brown has well-developed character arcs for ongoing characters, while smoothly adding new arrivals and potential for new storylines.