Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Live and Let Growl (A Melanie Travis Mystery #19)

Author:  Laurien Berenson
Genre:  Mystery

Hardover; Mass Market Paperback; Ebook
ISBN #:  9781496703385; 9781496703408
Kensington Publishing
304 Pages
$18.93; $7.99; $2.99 Amazon
July 26, 2016; May 30, 2017

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When her Aunt Peg lands a gig as a judge at a Kentucky dog show, Melanie Travis welcomes the opportunity for a road trip.  Too bad a killer has planned a deadly detour...

For a dog lover like Melanie, the opportunity to attend the Kentuckiana Dog Show Cluster is not to be missed.  Fortunately, the timing coincides with her spring break from teaching, so she heads for central Kentucky with her sister-in-law Bertie and Aunt Peg, who's accepted a week-long judging assignment.  Once there, Aunt Peg reconnects with an old friend, Ellie Gates Wanamaker, a former Standard Poodle exhibitor and a member of a well-heeled Kentucky family.  Miss Ellie has been out of the dog show world for more than a decade, but when Melanie invites her to spectate at the Louisville Kennel Club dog show, she's eager to accompany her.

Miss Ellie's presence at the expo center, however, provokes mixed reactions from exhibitors she hasn't seen in years, including some outright animosity.  The following day Melanie learns that Miss Ellie has suffered a fatal accident while exercising her dogs,  Aunt Peg, however, suspects foul play.  Wishing to avoid any scandal, Miss Ellie's pedigreed family prefers to let sleeping dogs lie, but as Melanie begins to sniff around, she discovers Miss Ellie had many secrets, both in the dog show world and amongst her Kentucky kin...

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Melanie Travis' Aunt Peg is a judge at a dog show in Kentucky, and has also learned that she's now the proud owner of a very pregnant Thoroughbred broodmare.  Peg wants to see the horse and see the stables, and Melanie, of course, after gentle prodding from her husband Sam, heads off to the Kentuckiana Dog Show.  When they arrive, Peg reconnects with an old friend, Ellie Gates Wanamaker, who grew up on a Thoroughbred farm and once showed standard poodles herself.  She's hoping Ellie can give her some pointers on horse ownership, racing and care.

For Melanie's part, she's delighted with Miss Ellie.  Ellie is larger than life and still a force to be reckoned with.  Melanie is surprised by the woman's energy and number of people she knows.  While Ellie is greeted with affection by many, Melanie can't help but notice there are some who keep their distance, and while she notices the looks and whispers of some people, Ellie appears to be unfazed.  What Melanie does learn is the reason Ellie retired was due to a tragic car accident that killed her Champion Poodle.  What she doesn't know is the rest of the story.

After Miss Ellie is discovered dead on her family's land, Peg suspects foul play.  Even though it was deemed an accidental fall, Peg is suspicious given the fact that Ellie knew the land inside and out, and had walked it on a regular basis, along with her four Jack Russell Terriers.  And when they encounter someone else who doesn't believe it was an accident either, a plan is hatched to discover the truth.

While I enjoyed the book, I will tell you that much of it is devoted to dog shows and Thoroughbreds.  There is detail after detail regarding show dogs and judging; if you don't derive pleasure from watching the Westminster Dog Show (et al) you might find it slightly boring and it seems extraneous.  On the other hand, while there is nearly as much information regarding race horses, much of this information is crucial to the book.  

The mystery itself seemed to be forthright:  Someone dies, it looks suspicious, and Peg decides to find out the killer, asking Melanie to investigate.  Unfortunately, the mystery itself got bogged down in all the information on the dog show; and I felt that Melanie allowed herself to be pushed around a little too easily.  I love my aunts, too, but I wouldn't let them order me around this way.  I got the feeling reading this book that Peg had no respect for Melanie and thought she was rather dim-witted.  She never asked her what she thought or what she wanted to do; she just told her this was the way it was going to be, period.

Even though this is the 19th book in the series, it can be read as a stand-alone, as there is enough information given to where the reader doesn't feel lost, and it's pretty easy to gauge personalities of lesser characters, which is a nice touch.  A decent book worth the read.  Recommended.



More on Laurien Berenson's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/b/laurien-berenson/

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