Fans will need a scorecard to keep track of a De Millean cast of characters—human, canine, equine, avian—in Brown’s latest fox-hunting whodunit (Puss ’n Cahoots, 2007, etc.).
The discovery of a beautiful young woman astride a horse, naked and dead, interrupts the winter routine of hunt balls and fox hunts in central Virginia. Jane “Sister” Arnold, Master of Hounds, wants the mystery solved on behalf of a group of horsemen and -women who may be unruly, backbiting, fornicating rascals, but do know how to turn out for the hunt. Was Lady Godiva, as the dead woman is dubbed, murdered because she knew too many secrets about the telecommunications industry everyone’s investing in these days? Or because she was canoodling with someone’s husband? Follow the steady patter of small talk and platitudes—delivered in dialogue so rigid you can sense the clenched jaws it issues from—to find out. Although Brown describes fox hunting in loving detail, the hunt scenes are overshadowed by story lines that go nowhere, and the multilayered clues to Lady Godiva’s murder are too obscure or confusing to build tension.
More than we need to know about the lives of the rich and venal.