My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Laurien Berenson’s Live and Let Growl (Kensington 2016),#19 in the Melanie Travis series, is a delightful cozy mystery starring special ed teacher Melanie Travis. She’s been working full time, raising a three-year-old and caring for a house full of poodles (the silent stars of the series). Her husband arranges a surprise vacation to a Kentucky dog show to accompany Aunt Peg on two tasks: look into a thoroughbred horse she’s inherited and help a pregnant cousin at a dog show where’s she is showing a collection of dogs. What should be a relaxing, fun weekend is turned upside down when a renowned breeder dies and both Travis and Aunt Peg can’t accept that it was an accident.
From early on, it’s clear that this book is as much a procedural on thoroughbreds and dog shows as it is about solving a murder mystery. Lots of times, the author interrupts the story to share details about some facet of show dogs or race horses, all told simply enough even an armchair enthusiast can understand.
“Mandy Jo was carrying her Open Bitch cupped beneath her arm and she had a Greyhound comb tucked inside her belt.”
“Some judges use their eyes to evaluate a dog’s conformation. Others rely on touch to tell them what they need to know. Their hands check the angle of a dog’s shoulder and feel for depth of chest. They skim over the topline and down the slope of the hind legs.”
But, these deviations do slow the action. In fact, the murder mystery didn’t pop up until well into the story and once it started, you’d never accuse the pace of being heart-stopping or frenetic (though there are some parts that are). But, the story is well-delivered, thanks to the folksy voice of the main character and her down-to-earth view on the world around her. The storyline itself isn’t particularly tricky, but there are enough intriguing twists and turns to keep anyone who loves dogs reading.
Interestingly enough, none of the characters are exceptional or brilliant. None have a hidden background in unraveling mysteries. No one has eidetic memories or super talents–not even an abiding passion for solving mysteries. What Travis and her cohorts have is curiosity and the inability to let well enough alone.
While you could read this as I did–before any of the others in the series–knowing Travis’ background as an amateur sleuth would make her actions more believable when she involves herself in an investigation most of us would leave to someone with a badge. Where I did have to pause a moment to think about that, her curiosity and inability to let well enough alone did allow me to suspend any disbelief I had and rabidly read on.
It should be noted that the dogs play only minor parts in the plot. Their role is to add interest for all those people (like me) who love any book that includes a dog. So, if you love reading cozy mysteries about amateur sleuths who happen to think the God’s greatest gift to mankind is a dog, this may be the perfect book for you.
–ebook provided by NetGalley
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Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.