Murder at the Puppy Fest (Melanie Travis)

Image of Murder at the Puppy Fest (A Melanie Travis Mystery)
Release Date: 
June 26, 2017
Reviewed by: 

“a cozy mystery filled with winsome dogs and some subtly dangerous characters.”

Helping out at philanthropist Leo Brody’s annual Puppy Fest was complicated work but Melanie Travers didn’t mind since she loves dogs and the benefit is for a good cause, finding homes for orphaned and abandoned canines.

This one turns out not to be so much fun, however, for Leo’s numerous offspring are in charge and some are more friendly than others. Leo’s daughter Jane, in particular, seems to have a grudge against Melanie and she can’t figure out why.

It’s while being sent on one of the many tedious and completely unnecessary errands for Jane that Melanie gets lost in the large and complicated passages of the millionaire’s mansion and discovers Leo’s body in his study. According to the medical examiner’s report, Leo died from eating a cookie containing peanut butter, an ingredient to which he had a severe allergy. Staff and family were aware of this, and Leo was very careful about what he ate. So how did it happen? A better question is: Why?

Who wanted the man who was such a benefactor out of the way?

Melanie doesn’t want to get involved, but, thanks to her pushy Aunt Peg, meddler par excellence, soon she is, and the answers she finds aren’t pretty ones.

This is definitely an interesting novel, but while it purports to be a “whodunit,” it seems to center more on dogs—poodles, in particular—and how to groom and show them than solving the murder. The discovery of the killer appears almost inconsequential to the plot, and from the incidental way it’s tossed in at the end, the reader may be left to wonder if any arrest was made or justice ever served.

There is definitely a wide cast of guilty-appearing characters to choose from, with most of them so obnoxious and disagreeable as to be caricatures of the worst of the spoiled and well-to-do. Aunt Peg is particularly annoying, making one question why an author would believe a character who’s bossy, opinionated, and so domineering everyone lets her have her way rather than object to her demands, would be in any way endearing to the reader. It seems all this particular relative does in the story is order people around and involve them in things they don’t wish to even be associated with. An incidental question popping up is why does Melanie, a divorced woman who has remarried, still use her former husband’s last name? No reason given for that, either.

Murder at the Puppy Fest is a cozy mystery filled with winsome dogs and some subtly dangerous characters. There’s also a great deal to be learned about standard poodles and the show ring while the culprits are ferreted out. Anyone who likes dogs, especially the poodle owner, will agree with author Berenson’s assessment of these intelligent animals and will undoubtedly enjoy this story.