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By Rita Mae Brown

Ballantine Books, 2000 (HC)
ISBN 0-345-42818-8

Ballantine Books, November, 2000 (pbk) 0345-42819-6

Reviewed by J. Ashley

This witty novel portrays life in a small Virginia town, revolving around the members and workers of the local hunt club. Sister, hunt master for many years, decides to search for a replacement, or at least someone to become joint-master, so she may retire. Her choices are a rich city developer from Indiana and a local man who, while devoted to the hunt, is dissipate in his personal life. Both men despise each other and have no bones about making their rivalry known.

But a mysterious figure dressed as Death appears on the hill outside the town, seen by Sister and others. Then the local man Sister considers is found murdered in the middle of the hunt, with suspects and opportunity abounding.

Brown's portraits are in-depth and satisfying--a rich texture of characterization. The wry observations made by the dogs, horses, cats, and foxes themselves keep this book from becoming overly dark. The animals have their own family lives and problems, and their observations on human foibles keep them in perspective.

My only complaint about this book is that is moves slowly, each day unfolding in the lives of these people--from sunup to sundown. But the pace adds to the intimate feel of the small town and the day-in day-out drift of life. Overall, a good read.

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