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.
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."
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.