Flashback Friday – #Review / #Giveaway – The Bark Before Christmas by Laurien Berenson

On Flashback Fridays I will share with you the books I was not able to review when they were first released that have been screaming at me from my To-Be-Read bookshelf.

The Bark Before Christmas
(A Melanie Travis Mystery)

Cozy Mystery
18th in Series
Setting – Connecticut
Kensington (September 29, 2015)
Hardcover: 304 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0758284587
Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0758284594
E-Book ASIN: B00RRT30B8




The Bark Before Christmas by Laurien Berenson – Melanie Travis has her hands full with her two young sons, a part-time job, and a half dozen Poodles to her name. But even with the busy holiday season approaching, she still has time to sniff out a Christmastime killer…

There’s nothing lovelier than Christmas in Connecticut, but Melanie can scarcely find a moment to enjoy the festivities. With her youngest son approaching toddler-hood, she’s decided to return to her old job at Howard Academy, a posh private school attended by the children of Greenwich’s well-heeled gentry. Balancing work, motherhood, and the hectic dog show circuit takes some fancy footwork, especially when the headmaster taps her to be the chairman of the school’s Christmas Bazaar.

The Christmas Bazaar is Howard Academy’s biggest and most important fundraiser, so Melanie feels the pressure to make it a huge success. She even enlists her long-suffering sister-in-law Bertie to help with the Santa Claus and Pets Photo Booth. But everything goes awry when a prize show dog goes missing and Santa turns up dead. The dog’s owner is one of the school’s most perfectly pedigreed alums, and she enlists Melanie to help find the purloined pooch. But just as Melanie starts pawing at the truth, she digs up a sleighful of sinister secrets that leaves everyone feeling less than merry…

Dollycas’s Thoughts

I jumped into this series late, reviewing Live and Let Growl in July. Since then I found this book on my TBR shelf and have been looking forward to reading it during the holidays. Again the author gives us plenty of information about the characters to make this book easily read all on its own.

Christmas for Melanie Travis also includes stepping in to chair the Christmas Bazaar fundraiser at Howard Academy. The main event at the bazaar is the Santa Claus and Pets Photo Booth. With her family’s ties to the dog show community they are able to spread the word and she hopes many will bring their show dogs and pets for a picture with Santa making the whole event a huge success. But when Santa is found dead and a pricey show dog goes missing things get out of control. The dog’s owner and her Aunt Peg hold Melanie responsible for the lost dog and demand she find it immediately. The school also hopes she finds out why and how the Santa ended up dead. This whole thing could tarnish the school’s reputation. If she expects to be able to celebrate the holidays with her family she needs to solve both parts of this case faster than Santa travels on Christmas Eve.

What a story but I have mixed emotions about the story as a whole! First I was drawn in my Melanie’s dedication to the school and her students. She is the teacher that helps the kids that get behind and need a little help or that have learning disabilities and need to learn differently. She also brings her large Standard Poodle, Faith, to class with her everyday. The dog helps her reach students in a delightful way. One of these student’s parents are splitting up and dealing with that has made things difficult for her at school. Her mother is the owner of the dog that goes missing at the bazaar. This girl’s story just ripped open my heart.

Berenson took this girl’s story at tipped it on its ear and wove a very creative mystery around it with plenty of turns. I started to figure out the clues just a bit before Melanie.

Maybe because I am new to this series Aunt Peg really made me pause. Overbearing, yes, but to me she did come off as rude and uncaring a few times. Thankfully Melanie has much more patience than I. Had my mother or aunt shown up in my home uninvited at 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning, complaining that I and my children were still in our pajamas I would have exploded. SUNDAY AT 7 A.M.! Then another time she took Melanie to task for her plans to go pick out a Christmas tree with her family instead of looking for the missing dog.

Truthfully I still don’t see how Melanie is responsible for the missing dog or the dead Santa. She was not the person that hired the Santa and it was the owner’s choice to keep the dog in a crate while she worked at the bazaar. I do admire the way Melanie handled the whole situation and the way she figured out the truth and solves the mystery.

I enjoyed reading about Melanie, Sam, Davey, Kevin, and even Aunt Peg when she isn’t ripping Melanie apart. Plus I really love reading about the dogs and the dog shows. I hope to be able to start this series from the beginning and she how they got where they are now.

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About Laurien Berenson

Laurien Berenson is an Agatha and Macavity Nominee, winner of the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, and 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.

Find out more about her and her books on her webpage here. Find her on Facebook here and on Twitter here.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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