Saturday, September 14, 2013

Connecticut, Dogs, Savvy Women, Good Writing: Laurien Berenson, GONE WITH THE WOOF

I love discovering a strong writer whose mysteries I haven't read before, and this past week, it was Laurien Berenson. Although she lives in Kentucky, her Melanie Travis mystery series is set in Connecticut, which she clearly knows well -- and although the book (and series) is labeled a canine mystery, dogs don't solve or give major clues to the crime and criminal in GONE WITH THE WOOF. But they're enthusiastic participants in family life for Melanie Travis, and in the shows where her family's Standard Poodles work for their awards.

Most delightfully, Melanie's Aunt Peg, a dog-show judge and poodle breeder, is the sort of strong, opinionated woman who not only sniffs when someone says something foolish, but takes action to correct what she sees as problems her family -- particularly Melanie -- may indulge.
Aunt Peg had been waiting for this opening since she'd arrived an hour earlier. Now she swiveled her seat around to face me.

"You've become boring," she said.

You know, just in case I'd missed that insult the first time. ...

"You're stuck in a rut," Aunt Peg persisted. My easy acquiescence didn't event slow her down. "I can help with that."
Turns out Aunt Peg's idea is for Melanie, whose stay-at-home-mom life for the past 18 months was a reaction to threats and crime she'd investigated, should become co-author for a book of dog-show memories by another judge who's retiring. And when the effort to get the book underway pushes Melanie back to her amateur sleuth skills, Aunt Peg is delighted to lend a hand with that, too.

I had a great time reading this one, and I'll be watching for Berenson's 15 earlier titles in the series. Cozy? Hmm, not quite ... and I wouldn't say it's particularly a pet mystery either. It's a strong traditional mystery, generously spiced with humor, and well paced for enjoyable evening reading. I already have a long list of people I know who'll appreciate GONE WITH THE WOOF!

PS -- The title, you ask? Got me on that one. I think there was one small mention of a heroine who'd just as soon deal with a problem tomorrow. But nothing Southern, no Tara, and no Civil War. If you figure out any strong reason why the book has this name, let me know with a comment here. Better yet, let me know which tricky and yet entertaining situation in Melanie's investigation gave you the best smile.

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