Thursday, December 13, 2012

Fox Tracks, by Rita Mae Brown

Random House, ISBN 9780345532978, November 2012

Jane Arnold rides again, this time in pursuit of a killer riding with her own hunt.

The first signs of trouble are far from Virginia, in New York City, where "Sister" Jane Arnold, her lover Gray Lorillard, and two of the young ladies recently graduated from Custis Hall, and now attending Princeton, are attending the annual Masters of Foxhounds Association dinner. During this New York interlude, Jane and Tootie visit a tobacco shop to buy a gift for Gray, and meet a charming, Cuban-born tobacco merchant.

Within moments after their departure, the tobacco seller is dead, murdered, with a package of cigarettes bearing the name "American Smokes" left on his chest. It's not a brand she's ever heard of, but except for their proximity to the crime, it's a minor mystery, far from where they live their lives.

Until there's a nearly identical murder in a tobacco shop in Boston. And then a tobacco warehouse in Illinois burns down.

Jane Arnold's mind can't let go of it, and she starts digging for information on American Smokes, and on why  a legal product like cigarettes might be smuggled internally in the United States. Meanwhile, she's also dealing with problems created by a rival hunt, and the sudden attacks on a teacher at Custis Hall, Tariq Al McMillan, by a local congressman determined to boost his career by targeting "terrorists," i.e., Muslims or anyone he thinks might be Muslim.

Of course, all these problems are interconnected, and Sister is in danger from directions she doesn't imagine.

As always, we also benefit from information Sister doesn't have: the observations and comments of the foxes, dogs, and horses in her household and her hunt area.

Overall, this is a good visit with familiar characters, and an enjoyable playing out of the ongoing, changing relationships among the regular characters. The resolution of the mystery is a bit disappointing, but it's almost a minor point, since the real purpose here is the time spent with the regular characters, the hunt life, and the animals.

Recommended to fans of the series.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.