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January 26, 2021

Out of Hounds by Rita Mae Brown ~ a Review

by Donna Huber

Rita Mae Brown's foxhunting cozy mystery series "Sister" Jane isn't one I actively seek out but when I see a book in the series I usually pick it up. I enjoy the mystery and the characters are growing on me after a couple of books. Though Out of Hounds is the 13 book in the series, I still don't feel compelled to go back and read the other books in the series.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

Out of Hounds
January 2021; Ballantine Books; 978-0593130063
audio, ebook, print (320 pages); cozy mystery
When I saw this book on Netgalley, I debated requesting it. While book 12, Scarlett Fever (read my review) was enjoyable enough it didn't immediately put the series on my must read list. But as I have only read that one book in the series I thought I should give it another try. I'm glad I read it.

So let's get the "why it isn't must read series for me" out the way. There is a lot of descriptive passages that I feel bog the story down and don't move it forward. These passages are usually about foxhunting. It isn't a sport I'm particularly interested in so reading about jumping coops and field conditions doesn't appeal to me. Those who enjoy foxhunting may really enjoy the passages. In this book, there was also a long descriptive passage (it might have just felt long) about a new estate in the area from a utility worker in a bucket truck. He's not describing it to anyone instead it is just his internal observation. While I appreciate descriptions in stories, I prefer for it to come out in dialogue.

The main reason I'm glad I read it relates to a post I wrote last year about how the pandemic would be portrayed in literature. When the first chapter started in February 2020, I thought perhaps it was doing what the television show NCIS did and skip the pandemic by setting the story before it really hit. As the month progresses, there are whispers of the pandemic - a virus in China mentioned briefly in an article a character is reading. But, keeping with telling the story in real time, Brown continues to roll out the pandemic in much the same way we all experienced it in the early days - lockdowns in Wuhan, Italy being hard hit with Germany starting to see it. As the story rolls into March, just like it was for us, the pandemic became more real for the characters - do they continue with the hunt schedule, being told to stay 6 feet apart, etc.

I liked that Brown kept it real without the pandemic taking over the story.

And what was the story? Paintings of women riding side-saddle are being stolen and dead bodies are cropping up.

Another reason I like this series is that the "amateur sleuth" isn't really investigating the mystery. Sister and her hunt club friends are more like typical people. They read or hear about something in the news and it piques their interest so they casually talk about it - throwing out theories and tidbits of information. And also like real people they may look more deeply into it because it ties in with a hobby they are passionate about. I know if I read a news story about a famous painting being stolen I would probably do a Google search to learn more about the painting or author just out of curiosity. This is different than most cozy mysteries where the main character is actively trying to solve the crime. 

I did solve the mystery before it was revealed, but I didn't really think I had. It was more like a theory that one of the characters would have made - I thought a certain character would fit with the theory they had of what kind of person would have the opportunity to commit the crime. So I was a bit surprised when I turned out to be right.

As I said the characters are growing on me and I'm sure if I picked up some of the early books in the series I would like the characters even more as I got to know them more.

If you enjoy foxhunting or want a different kind of cozy mystery, then I would recommend giving this one a try. The story is well written and enjoyable.

Buy Out of Hounds at Amazon

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour

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