Game Of Dog Bones (Melanie Travis Book 25)

Howloween Murder (Melanie Travis Book 26)

Laurien Berenson

Kensington Pub

Game of Dog Bones and Howloween Murder by Laurien Berenson brings back her enchanting character, Melanie Travis.  Anyone who has ever read one of these books knows that murder follows Melanie like a dutiful canine where she must become an amateur sleuth to solve a murder.  What makes these books special is how the author also adds tidbits about the four-legged canine friends and her family.

In Game of Dog Bones Melanie and family are heading to New York from their Connecticut home to watch Aunt Peg judge in the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Victor Durbin has been a thorn in Aunt Peg’s side. She was instrumental in getting him kicked out of the Paugussett Poodle Club for his unsavory practices with his dogs. Spiteful, he started his own Empire Poodle Club, in which he slated his judging to be opposite Peg’s seminar, hoping to lure away her guests. He also accosts Aunt Peg demanding that she have a drink with him. 

The next morning before they are to head to the show, Peg calls Melanie to tell her that Victor has been murdered, and that she’s a suspect in the killing. She asks Melanie to sniff around and see if she can figure out who had a motive to kill him. Unfortunately, as Melanie digs up more clues she puts herself in danger because the killer does not want to be found.

An added bonus is how Berenson allows the readers to feel they have traveled to the dog show. She explains the rationale behind dog shows and purpose-bred dogs.

Howloween Murder highlights the holiday.  This is definitely a treat for readers and the trick is the twisted plot line that keeps them guessing as to who is the killer. The head master’s secretary, Harriet, who basically runs the school Melanie works at, is accused of murder. She 

makes marshmallow puffs every Halloween not only for the academy’s annual Halloween party, but for neighbors as well, including Ralph who has dementia. After he was found dead, with a very tainted puff in his hand, Harriet becomes a suspect. Melanie knows her tenured colleague would never intentionally serve cyanide-laced puffs to a defenseless old man. She is asked to investigate by Harriet to help her find the person who killed Ralph and to clear her name.

What Berenson has so skillfully done is to add current social issues that add to the story.  In the first book, the issue of abuse is covered, while in this book the storyline shows how a child copes with losing their best canine friend. 

The books allow readers to feel a part of the Travis family.  Whether it’s the older son Davey showing one of the dogs, or the younger son Kevin struggling to decide which Halloween costume he should wear. Her husband, Aunt Peg, two sons, five Standard Poodles, and one spotted mutt allows for never a dull moment. Anyone who loves mysteries and dogs will enjoy these books.

Elise Cooper:  Game of Dog Bones highlights the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show?

Laurien Berenson: It is the first book that highlights this show.  I have always in the back of my mind wanted to include it in one of my stories.  For a long time, I wondered how to do it because the show is in New York and Melanie lives in Connecticut.  The first third of the book takes place in New York and at the Dog Show.  A man gets murdered there.

EC:  Did you ever judge there like Aunt Peg?

LB:  I never have, although I showed dogs for many years. A dog of mine once received an Award of Merit. I did go through all the steps needed to become a judge.  To be a successful dog show judge there is a tremendous amount of traveling and being on the road.  I hate to live my life on an airplane so I never did it.

EC:  The story also talks about mixed breeds?

LB:  There isn’t anything more right with them than having a pure breed.  For example, Labradoodles do not necessarily have the best genetics of both breeds, but can also have some of the worst.  Mixing a lab and a poodle together doesn’t make a better product. Someone who buys a purebred dog from a reputable breeder will have done all the genetic testing to eliminate the risks.  

EC:  What is the function of clubs?

LB:  They are to promote the betterment of purebred dogs.  

EC:  How would you describe the victim, Victor?

LB:  A scumbag, self-centered, unscrupulous, uncaring with basically nothing nice to say about him.

EC:  Are there really pooch pubs?

LB:  Yes, they have kitty cafes and puppy cafes.  I think they started in Asia.  People can go get a coffee and be surrounded by kittens and puppies.  They are draped over furniture and people can interact with the live animals.  I have never been to one.  People should wonder what happens to the puppies when they grow up?

EC:  Describe the relationship between Aunt Peg and Melanie?

LB:  Lovingly antagonistic.  They spark off each other.

EC:  In the other book, Howloween Murder, describe the person of interest, Harriet?

LB:  She has appeared in the series before, but not in a major way.  She knows about everything that happens at the school, being the Headmaster’s Secretary.  Overall, she is a hard worker, intelligent, and nothing escapes her. She has been a background character for a while and I wanted to make her a star.

EC:  One social issue covered is dementia?

LB:  I did not know anyone who has it.  But I tried to imagine a situation that makes it sympathetic.  I wanted to portray what a family member might feel in that situation.  The book quote, “Dementia is a terrible impairment,” I agreed. “I know it must have been difficult for you.” “Difficult.” Madison snorted. “I’ve spent the last three years following my father around. Picking up after him. Cleaning up after him. Trying to talk to a man who barely remembers who I am. Having my needs become totally secondary to his. Like what I want to do with my life doesn’t even matter anymore.” 

EC:  Why the Addams Family costume for Melanie and her husband?

LB:  Believe it or not it is one of the most popular costumes for Halloween.  I don’t dress up myself, but thought it would be nice for Melanie to be Morticia and her husband, Sam as Gomez.  

EC:  What about your next book?

LB:  It is at a summer camp.  Kevin, Melanie’s younger son, is the camper and Davey, the older son, is the counselor. The mystery happens at the camp.




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About the Author

Elise Cooper

Elise writes book reviews that always include a short author interview.