This long running mystery series, this is the ninth novel so far, is always an interesting read for me.
This series grows out of her passions for horses, hounds, and American fox hunting which show up frequently in her fiction and non-fiction works and has for sometime now been a member of a local fox hunt club. Please note that American hunt clubs do not kill the fox as part of their hunt but let it escape. Indeed they care for the foxes on their property by feeding them and making sure they get enough food in harsh winters.
So fifteen years ago, she began Fox Tracks which is the name of this mystery series centered around the widowed Jane “Sister” Arnold, the seventy three year-old master of foxhounds at a fox hunting club in Virginia. For more on fox hunting as filtered through the writer and her activities with it, visit the Facebook page of the lead character here.
Before I talk about the novel, I need to mention that the foxes, foxhounds, other dogs, horses, birds and even Jane’s cat, Golliwog, or Golly as she’s more often called, a large calico cat, who lives in Sister’s house, are given an internal voice.
Here’s two of the horses speaking in the novel:
“Rickyroo was watching from his stall. “You got a lot of mane, boy,” the old horse said.
“Oh, just give him a buzz cut,” Keepsake teased from the neighboring stall. “He’ll look like a marine.”
It a charming plot device that allows Brown to give a depth to story that’s simply not possible if only the humans in the story were speaking it’s particularly great when the a foxhound and a foxhound trade insults as they often do in these novels.
The Jefferson Hunt Club have traveled from Virginia to Kentucky to ride with the Woodford Hunt during the less than ideal weather of March. Sister comments to her friend whose riding with her that an ill wind blows no good.
After the hunt, Sister Jane and her boyfriend, Gray Lorillard, are off to a party at a nearby estate which is home to a renowned equine graveyard. The evening is rudely interrupted by the discovery of human remains in the cemetery. Old remains that will lead to a mystery that three families in Virginia thought long forgotten and will follow Sister and her friends back with her causing the murder of one of her closest friends.
The mystery to both well thought and solved in a reasonable manner, but the interaction between humans, foxhounds, and well, every other being’s fascinating and the milieu of the Blue Ridge Mountains is the really fascinating part of this series as Brown obviously is deeply, madly involved with the hunt scene.
There’s continuity in this series but Brown gives you the backstory in a way that avoids the need to read the series to date in order to enjoy this novel. If you’re so inclined to listen to this story, Brown narrates it, an unusual occurrence to say the least, and does a superb job of bringing the story to life.
(Ballantine Books, 2014)