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By Rita Mae Brown

Ballantine, 2006 ($24.95)

Reviewed by Shirley H. Wetzel

The latest in Brown's "Sister" Jane Arnold fox hunting series is set in the beautiful hills of Virginia, in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains. As usual with Brown's novels, there is a colorful cast of characters. These are listed in the front of the book, and are divided into Human, Foxhounds, Horses, Foxes, Birds, House Pets and "Other Animals," all playing some part in the story. For those not up on their fox hunting terms, there is a glossary as well.

Something is amiss in the financial records of a local company, Aluminum Manufacturing, and owner Garvey Stokes can't get to the bottom of it. The company treasurer, Iphigenia "Iffy" Demetrios, isn't much help, being more focused on her battle with lung cancer and her relationship with her doctor.

Soon there are shootings and bodies in the snow, and crimes - or is it all one related crime - to be solved. Sheriff Ben Sidell, not being a native, asks Sister Jane for help in figuring out the "labyrinthine ways of the South." There are family secrets, feuding brothers, and callous, rule-breaking interlopers in the fox hunting crowd. As usual with these stories, the humans get some assistance from the critters, who have a vested interest in the outcome. The humans, silly creatures, think they did all the work, but the animals know better.

Fans of the series will enjoy spending some time with the horses, hounds, and humans who inhabit the serene and beautiful world of the Virginia fox hunting gentry.

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