Out of Hounds is the 13th "Sister" Jane mystery by Rita Mae Brown. Released 19th Jan 2020 by Penguin Random House on their Ballantine imprint, it's 320 pages and available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.
Like nearly all of Ms. Brown's oeuvre, this is a capably written, well told story that is character driven, neatly plotted, and finely paced. I've long been a fan of the author, and enjoyed her cozy Mrs. Murphy series as well as her more serious writing.
The Sister Jane books are cozies and full of the American foxhunting
traditions and culture. If you don't know anything about riding to
hounds, you will after reading this book.
The dialogue and writing are pitch perfect. Typically for Ms. Brown, the writing is solidly comfortable and engaging. Reading her books is almost like visiting with an old friend you haven't seen for a while; you just pick up where you left off the last time, even if you haven't seen them for ages.
I personally love anthropomorphic mysteries, but fair warning, if
talking animals bug you, this probably isn't the series for you. The
book also does a superlative job of giving a glimpse into Virginia
hospitality and etiquette and the riding subculture.
Four stars (mostly because even though American fox hunters just chase the foxes and don't kill them, it still distresses me and I'm always rooting for the foxes - the books are also *full* of upper class extremely wealthy people who often rub my proletariat heart the wrong way). Bonus points for the author's managing to make her characters ethnically diverse, and not just pasted on, either. Many of the characters have faced and worked through part of their tragic shared traumatic past, from slave times onward and at this point there seems to be more good natured camaraderie than any festering resentment.
The art theft and murder plots felt secondary to the fox hunting in this one, but still overall quite a solidly entertaining read.
Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.