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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 S. E. Warwick

Good writing is good writing, the subject matter almost secondary. Taking a slight detour from her Mrs. Murphy mystery series, written in collaboration with her cat, Sneaky Pie, Rita Mae Brown sets a mystery in the highly ritualized world of fox hunting as practiced in Virginia.

Using your basic murder mystery as a backdrop, Ms. Brown paints a vivid and instructional picture of a group of contemporary people who take part in an ancient sport that is almost a religion to the faithful.

This is not a one-sided story however, for the animals involved get their say too. Brown gently flaunts her rich classical education by using the animals like a Greek chorus to comment on human frailties.

As in the Mrs. Murphy series, the animals here, two families of foxes, an owl, a crow, foxhounds and a cat, work together to catch the killer and prevent further deaths of humans and animals.

OUTFOXED is a well-plotted portrait of fox hunting and its adherents. Ms. Brown subtly explains the sport and how its devotees are more ecologically minded than the folks who whine about cruelty to foxes. (The only foxes who die are sick and elderly and may well commit suicide by allowing the hounds to catch them).

Not only does Ms. Brown talk a good write, she delivers.

This book will be available in paperback in November, 2000.

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