Welcome to Cozy Wednesday!
I am so excited to have Laurien Berenson visit today!
What a Bright Idea
by Laurien Berenson
The question I’m asked most frequently is, where do you get your ideas? The short answer to that: everywhere. Ideas come from news segments and conversations, and from things that happen all around me. Something as small as a single phrase or a fragment of a description will often cause me to pause and think, But what if…?
Occasionally a great idea will present itself fully formed and demand to be written about. That was the case with my first cozy mystery. A PEDIGREE TO DIE FOR, the debut book in the Melanie Travis series, was published in the 1990’s. But long before I sat down to write it, I already had the germ of a plot in mind.
In those days I was breeding and showing Miniature Poodles. I was also writing occasional articles for The New York Times. So when a Toy Poodle breeder in Michigan announced that her top stud dog had been stolen–and that the FBI and her local police had laughed when she’d asked for their assistance in finding him–that certainly caught my attention. Jane Winne offered a $10,000 reward for any information leading to her dog’s return. I queried my editor, then called to interview her about the theft.
Champion Syntifny’s Piece of the Rock was an ice white Toy Poodle who stood just ten inches tall. He had been a star in the show ring and he was proving to be a standout sire as well. Rocky was producing offspring who possessed the conformation, the temperament, and the charisma to become champions like their sire.
Jane had been offered a large sum of money for her dog. When she turned it down, she was offered a blank check. A week after she declined the second offer, Rocky was stolen from her kennel in the middle of the night.
I wrote the story for The New York Times and subsequently, both the FBI and the Michigan police opened their own investigations. I followed all the developments avidly. Unfortunately, Jane Winne’s story did not have a happy ending. Rocky–who was believed to have been taken out of the country–was never found.
Although that tragic event served as the genesis for A PEDIGREE TO DIE FOR, my book was a work of fiction. It had a very different cast of characters. My plot veered off in a totally new direction. And I got to make sure that justice was served in the end.
Since then, there have been twenty-one new Melanie Travis mysteries including the just-released book, RUFF JUSTICE. This time the plot revolves around the death of a canine portrait artist and, once again, Melanie finds herself on the trail of a murderer. I love writing cozy mysteries because it’s important to me that all the animals in my books remain safe. And that my characters—both human and canine–find the happy ending that Jane and Rocky never did.
Thank you, Laurien, so much for being my guest today! My heart just breaks over the loss of that poodle.
Now let me tell you what I thought of Ruff Justice!
Ruff Justice (Melanie Travis Canine Mystery)
22nd in Series
Setting – Connecticut
Kensington (June 26, 2018)
Hardcover: 304 pages
Kindle ASIN: B07638WZN2
As the owner of prize-winning Poodles, Melanie Travis knows how to handle fierce competition. But when a conformation show turns deadly, it’ll take every trick in the book to outsmart a murderer who refuses to lose . . .
With the excitement of the spring dog show season sweeping Connecticut, Melanie is determined to help her son finally lead his Standard Poodle toward a championship title. Aunt Peg even skips the judging panel to exhibit a pup of her own, and she’s set on standing out from the pack with a handmade leash from Jasmine Crane, a talented canine portrait artist who also crafts stunning accessories for discriminating show-goers. Jasmine’s handiwork is to die for—but Aunt Peg didn’t expect to discover the woman murdered behind the concession booth, strangled by one of her dazzling custom creations . . .
Another shockwave ripples through the close-knit show community when Amanda, Aunt Peg’s longtime dog sitter and a renter on Jasmine’s property, ominously vanishes that same day. While nosing around for clues, Melanie suspects a dangerous connection between Amanda’s disappearance and the homicide case—a hunch that grows as her investigation reveals sketchy secrets about the late artist. Juggling a demanding teaching job, the pressures of the show ring, and a daunting suspect list, Melanie finds herself entangled in a mind-boggling murder mystery . . . and hot on the trail of a desperate killer . . .
Dog show competitions are a big part of Melanie Travis’ and her family’s life. Her Aunt Peg got the ball rolling and now their house is filled with 5 Standard Poodles and one spotted mutt. Four of the poodles are retired show champions and the poodle that belongs to her 13-year-old son Davey is just a few points away from his championship. Dog shows also include a lot of vendors who sell the wares to the attendees. Over time a close-knit community is formed. Aunt Peg had taken an interest in an artist, Jasmine Crane, who had added accessories like collars and leashes to her custom canine portrait business. Peg had ordered a new leash for her new puppy. When she arrived at Jasmine’s booth to pick it up she found something most disturbing. The artist was dead, a custom leash was around her neck, another murder.
Peg gets Melanie involved immediately. Then Peg learns her dog sitter and tenant of Jasmine Crane is missing. Is she missing because she killed her landlord? Or has the killer taken her life too? Or is she hiding because she is in danger? Melanie is searching for answers and is ready to deal out some Ruff Justice, that is even the killer doesn’t set their eyes on her first!
I first have to say that I absolutely envy Melanie Travis and her husband Sam and how they handle a household full of 2 sons, 13-year-old Davey and 4-year-old Kevin, the 5 poodles and a wonderful mutt named Bud, all while holding down jobs, weekends full of dog shows, and everything Aunt Peg throws at them. Even when you add a murder and missing person, they still manage to stay on top of everything. Their lives are far from easy can be full of drama, but there are so many moments that had me laughing out loud. Ms. Berenson has created a cast of loveable characters, both human and canine. Over the course of these series, they have become old friends.
She has also created a spectacular mystery. Everyone at the dog show is a suspect. The police seem to be stumped, but because Melanie knows the dog show world inside and out and Aunt Peg knows everybody in the dog show world, Melanie is quick to sort out who actually would have wanted Jasmine Crane dead. She also gets a good handle on why the dog sitter is missing. Now she just has to go through the paces and ask the right questions to collar the real culprit. It was so much fun to follow Melanie with each twist and each turn until the whole mystery comes together.
I found the subplot of the new student in Melanie’s school very interesting. She takes her Standard Poodle, Faith, to school with her every day. Faith has a way of getting the kids relaxed and ready to learn as Melanie tutors them. A new student opens up to Melanie about a problem she was having after just a couple of sessions. I loved the way she handled the issue head-on. and gave some really good advice.
My dogs are a little more low maintenance in the grooming department being Border Collie/Blue Heeler mixes, they had no dog shows to worry about. But their temperament reminds me a lot of Melanie’s dog Faith. They are my canine companions and read my emotions pretty easily. At almost 15 years old we have a lot of history, but they are slowing down a bit. Our vet told us to prepare ourselves because they are getting up there in age. I don’t even want to think about life without them. Like the dogs in this story and like dogs in most families they are an integral part of our lives. Laurien Berenson brings what I feel every day to life in her stories.
I always recommend reading a series from the start but this author’s writing style really makes each book stand on its own. Fans of this series are going to love this book, but cozy lovers and dog lovers, don’t hesitate to jump in here for a little Ruff Justice. Ms. Berenson has written a terrific story!
About This Author
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.
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