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Howloween Murder (review 2)
Melanie Travis #26
BY Laurien Berenson

August 25, 2020/ ISBN 9781496730572

Reviewed by Elise Cooper


Howloween Murder by Laurien Berenson brings back her enchanting character, Melanie Travis. Anyone who has ever read one of these books knows that murder follows Melanie like a dutiful canine where she must become an amateur sleuth to solve a murder. What makes these books special is how the author also adds tidbits about the four-legged canine friends and her family.

Howloween Murder highlights the holiday. This is definitely a treat for readers, and the trick is the twisted plotline that keeps them guessing who the killer is. The head master's secretary, Harriet, who basically runs the school Melanie works at, is accused of murder. She makes marshmallow puffs every Halloween, not only for the academy's annual Halloween party, but for neighbors as well, including Ralph, who has dementia. After he was found dead, with a very tainted puff in his hand, Harriet becomes a suspect. Melanie knows her tenured colleague would never intentionally serve cyanide-laced puffs to a defenseless old man. She is asked to investigate by Harriet to help her find the person who killed Ralph and clear her name.

"I wanted to highlight a character who has a small role in earlier books. Harriet has appeared in the series before, but not in a major way. She knows about everything that happens at the school, being the Headmaster's Secretary. Overall, she is a hard worker, intelligent, and nothing escapes her. She has been a background character for a while, and I wanted to make her a star."

What Berenson has so skillfully done is to add current social issues that add to the story. In the first book, the issue of abuse is covered, while in this book, the storyline shows how a child copes with losing their best canine friend.

"One issue I wanted to cover is dementia. I did not know anyone who has it. But I tried to imagine a situation that makes it sympathetic. I wanted to portray what a family member might feel in that situation. The book quote, "Dementia is a terrible impairment," I agreed. "I know it must have been difficult for you." "Difficult." Madison snorted. "I've spent the last three years following my father around. Picking up after him. Cleaning up after him. Trying to talk to a man who barely remembers who I am. Having my needs become totally secondary to his. Like what I want to do with my life doesn't even matter anymore."

The book allows readers to feel a part of the Travis family. Whether it's the older son Davey showing one of the dogs, or the younger son Kevin struggling to decide which Halloween costume he should wear. Her husband, Aunt Peg, two sons, five Standard Poodles, and one spotted mutt, allows for never a dull moment. Anyone who loves mysteries and dogs will enjoy these books.

Reviewed 2020