Murder at the Puppy Fest
Frolicking with dogs is Melanie Travis’s idea of heaven. So when she’s invited to be a “puppy wrangler” at a benefit for a local dog rescue, the last thing she expects is to be chasing after a tricky killer…
As a busy mom and pedigree Poodle owner, Melanie has little time to spare. Still, she doesn’t mind helping out at Puppy Fest, an annual fundraiser to benefit Puppy Posse, a local dog rescue organization. Considering the venue—Belle Haven mansion, owned by wealthy philanthropist Leo Brody—it’s shaping up to be the can’t-miss charity event of the summer. Unfortunately, when Melanie’s breeding background lands her in the doghouse with Jane, Leo’s snappy daughter who runs the rescue, Melanie finds herself simultaneously managing Puppy Fest and the millionaire’s hopelessly fractious family.
But once Puppy Fest kicks off, Leo is nowhere to be found—until Melanie discovers his current mistress crouching over his dead body. According to police, the father of nine’s severe nut allergy went into overdrive after he accidentally consumed a contaminated cookie. However, Libby, one of Leo’s children and a friend of Melanie’s Aunt Peg, believes someone deliberately put him down for good. And now, she’s begging a reluctant Melanie to unearth the secrets hidden by the Brody pack. But the closer Melanie gets to fetching answers, the higher the stakes become—and the more she realizes that she’s chasing a criminal who’s been groomed to win…
I can't remember a time when I wasn't writing something. I always wanted to tell stories and I'm incredibly grateful that now there are people who want to read them. I think of the Melanie Travis mystery series as the saga of a woman's life--with complications. And dogs. And love. And lots of laughter. We should all be so lucky.
Laurien Berenson is an Agatha and Macavity Award nominee, winner of the Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award, and a four time winner of the Maxwell Award, presented by the Dog Writers Association of America. She and her husband live on a farm in Kentucky surrounded by dogs and horses.
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Hi Laurien, thanks for being by the blog! I am so excited to help introduce your latest release “Murder at the Puppy Fest.”
Tell us a bit about your writing history, how did you get started?
From the time I was a very small child, I always wanted to be a writer. I took every writing course I could find in high school and college, and when I graduated from college, I began the very long process of trying to get a book accepted for publication. I knew I wanted to write mysteries–but cozy mysteries barely existed at that time and the market for romance novels was growing quickly, so the first books I wrote were in that genre. I wrote ten romances, one YA book, and two psychological suspense novels. In 1995, the first book in the Melanie Travis series, A PEDIGREE TO DIE FOR, was published–and 19 books later, I have never wanted to do anything else!
This is the 20th book in the series! What has been a key to your success? Does Melanie enjoy her sleuthing?
I think the key to the series success is that Melanie is a very relatable character. Readers often tell me how “real” she seems. Yes, she gets involved in solving mysteries (sometimes reluctantly) but she’s also a wife, a mother, and a special needs tutor–in addition to breeding and showing Standard Poodles. She has a very full life and I think readers enjoy watching her scramble to get everything done just like they do.
I adore that your books have dogs, and puppies, why did you choose to focus on a dog theme with each? If you couldn’t have used dogs, what animal would you choose?
For me, the dogs were inevitable. I grew up going to dog shows as my mother bred and showed dogs and my grandmother was a terrier group judge. Later, as an adult, I bred and showed Poodles (both Standards and Minis) for 20 years. So I was well acquainted with the dog show scene and I thought it would make the perfect backdrop for a cozy mystery series.
If I could not write about dogs, I would definitely be writing about horses. Now that I’m no longer showing Poodles I am breeding Thoroughbred racehorses. Some day, there may be a book in that too.
Yes, you have had some nice foals! I would love to see a horse themed mystery series from you. What do you enjoy reading?
Everything! Right now I’m binging on historical fiction and YA dystopian novels. But I also love mysteries of all kinds, chick lit, and non-fiction. The only thing I will not read is horror. (I get frightened very easily.)
I get terrifed as well, that is why cozy mysteries work so well for me. Though some have given me goosebumps! Silly question to ask, but what is your favorite breed of dog?
Poodles, of course! But really, all dogs are great, purebred and mixed breed alike. MURDER AT THE PUPPY FEST introduces a new dog to Melanie household–a little mutt that has been dumped on the side of the road, and is brought home by her son, Davey.
After more than 30 years with Poodles, I’m taking a break from grooming and have 2 smooth Collies, who are wonderful. Maybe I’m easy, but I’ve never met a breed of dog that I didn’t like.
Collies are such pretty dogs. We ahve a little poodle mix, and I adore her. Dogs are just wonderful pets. It’s July so let’s chat Christmas!
There is a Christmas book coming this year as well, care to share a bit about it?
The Christmas book is what is called a gift-sized book, it’s about 3/4ths the length of a regular Melanie Travis mystery. I loved having the opportunity to write a more compact plot, and I had lots of fun bringing back some of Melanie’s family members who hadn’t been seen in recent books. Melanie’s younger brother, Frank, buys a Christmas tree farm and mayhem ensues. That’s all I’ll say!
I feel like this book would be the best stocking stuffer! Hmm, I know what I am getting my reading friends. What is next for Melanie?
I’m currently working on the 22nd book in the series. It’s called RUFF JUSTICE and it will come out in July 2018. That book takes Melanie and Aunt Peg back to the series’ dog show roots.
I look forward to reading the next adventures! What is next for your writing career, any new series?
I often think about writing a mystery series based in the horse racing world, but for the moment that idea is on the back burner. I’m really enjoying Melanie’s adventures and I hope to be writing them for many years to come.
Book Review by Bree Herron
This book was my best friend for the time of reading it. I loved all the puppy antics, the conversations and dialogue, plus the mystery was great too! So come have a barking good time reading this book.
Character: Melanie is such a relatable character to me. Busy mom doing it all and solving mysteries, well okay I don’t solve mysteries but I read them, close enough right? Okay, Melanie is super sleuth mom with adorable canines, and since this was my third encounter with her, it was a joy to jump into her latest mystery. She is witty, fun and seems human- not at all fictional.
Cover: Puppies!! How can the cover not call to you with the uber cuteness? I love the bright yellow, and the fun, cuddly puppies.
Setting: We are going to the dogs, in the best possible way. A puppy fest is wonderful, and I wish I would have a host of those here. It will give the warm and fuzzies to the readers. I was eager to be a friend with Melanie at the event and to be her partner in sleuthing.
Mystery: Well, this is a fun mystery! I love the entire death scene. The secrets and the twists make a reader stay engaged, and keep you guessing. I was blown away at the end with who the real culprit was and it made me so thrilled to be surprised. I would say that is a huge deal for me with reading mysteries, I have to be surprised and that is what this book gave me.
Overall: A great summer mystery. I don’t know why I have been missing out on this series, but I will not continue that mistake. This was a highly enjoyable and delightful read, that will entice readers to want to read more!
Please join the conversation and comment below. Have you read… If so what did you think/like?
**DISCLAIMER: I was provided an opportunity to read this book as an Advanced Reader Copy in return for a fair and honest review.
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