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I will immediately admit that I have never run across, much less read, one of Laurien Berenson's canine mysteries and I am wondrously late to the party. WAGGING THROUGH THE SNOW appears to be the twenty first episode in the Melanie Travis Canine series. I will further admit that my past experience with cosies has provided me with a fair amount of experience with cosies that are dogs, if you will excuse the pun.
Dogs we have here, dogs in abundance. Melanie owns five Standard Poodles and a mix, all of whom have the run of the house and are usually underfoot. Melanie's husband Sam and her almost-four son Kevin take this as a matter of course as does her son Davey from her first marriage. Most of the extended family is close and some of them have dogs (some refuse). There is ex-husband Bob and his wife Claire, brother Frank and his wife Bertie and their two sons, and a domineering Aunt Peg who started the Poodle mania. Frank is in business with Bob running the popular and successful cafe, The Bean Counter. Bob covers finance and is sensible. Frank covers the management and is pretty loopy.
Frank bursts into Melanie's kitchen on a cold snowy Saturday to announce that he has unexpectedly and impulsively purchased a Christmas tree farm in the lovely Connecticut woods nearby at an auction he didn't mean to bid at. Being Frank, he puts a grand spin on the whole thing and wants one tiny favor from Melanie: could she inform his business partner Bob that he used the funds from The Bean Counter to do this and that the whole family will have to help immediately to get this business up and running as Christmas is only four weeks away?
The answer is a firm "No." Good for Melanie!
Frank is disappointed but he assures Melanie that everyone is going to love it and that the whole family needs to go out to the farm, Haney's Holiday Home, right away to look at it, figure out what needs doing and who will do it, and get the place opened for business in no more than a week. One good point is that this business has operated for years and years, is well known in the area, and has a steady repeat clientele.
This is a cosy. The family is really nice about whatever happens and makes demands on them. So all of them trek out to Haney's to find out what Frank's gotten them all into.
And it's the twenty-first in the series so everything just runs according to pattern. Davey and Kevin explore the woods while the adults consider the wreck of a building they need to repair and refresh in a matter of days. The boys return with a story about hearing something crying out there and everyone heads out to find out what it is. It's a dead man, frozen in the snow, with a tiny Maltese terrier burrowed under him, shivering and crying.
Luckily, most of the family is happy to let the police handle the situation and clear it away but Aunt Peg and Melanie believe there is something wrong about the death and that it might not be accidental at all. And we're off and running.
I would be lying if I said that I don't have quibbles with this book but it is a series of long standing and success and it has a strong following that is going to love this addition to Melanie's story. So I will ignore all but one of my quibbles: the problem of back story plagues every author of a series, especially a series that continues over the years and produces many volumes. As one new to the series, I found it really difficult to keep the family members straight in the beginning – we got through the part of the story that I related in the fourth chapter. A quick and easy fix would be the old fashioned one of listing the family members and their relationships up front, somewhere near the title page – a handy reference for people like me who haven't read the first twenty books so that they wouldn't have to dig back through the beginning to find out again who is who. That said, this novel otherwise stands alone just fine.
And to my main point: most cosies are fluff and fun and this one is. But there's a difference here. Laurien Berenson can write! And she writes really well. I thoroughly enjoyed WAGGING THROUGH THE SNOW and can happily recommend it to Barenson's followers and all fans of cosies.
§ Diana Borse is retired from teaching English at Texas A&M University-Kingsville and savoring the chance to read as much as she always wanted to.
Reviewed by Diana Borse, November 2017
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