When I was little, I always wanted a sister. Instead I got a baby brother. The first time I saw Frank, he was an infant nestled in my mother’s arms. Mouth open, face screwed into a ugly scowl, he was shrieking at the top of his lungs. Despite the noise, my mother gazed down at him with delight.
Looking back now, I realize that initial meeting set the tone for the remainder of our sibling relationship. Frank screwed up. I tried to fix things. Frank skated through life with his head in the clouds while I, big sister Melanie, was forced to be the voice of reason.
So when Frank showed up at my house on a snowy December morning and announced that he’d raised his hand at a real estate auction and was now the owner of a dilapidated, overgrown, Christmas tree farm, the first words out of my mouth were not, “What can I do to help?”
That didn’t stop Frank. It didn’t even slow him down. He was already making a list of all the various ways he thought family members should pitch in and aid his quest to quickly turn the impetuous purchase into a viable business. Not only that, but he was sure he could make it happen in time for the holiday season—which was already upon us.
I like Christmas as much as anyone, except perhaps for my Aunt Peg who is an utter fanatic. But since I have a husband, two young sons, and a houseful of dogs—five Standard Poodles and one small mutt—not to mention a job as a special needs tutor at a local private school, my December was already fully booked.
So all I agreed to do was go with the rest of the family on Sunday morning to have a look. That was my first mistake.
My second mistake was accompanying Aunt Peg deep into the woods behind the office because my older son thought he heard someone crying. As it turned out, he was right. There was someone whimpering in the snow covered forest. A dirty, matted, Maltese puppy was lying in a snow drift, burrowed beneath the cold body of his recently deceased owner.
Frank says that I attract trouble like a magnet. But this time I could lay the blame squarely on him. If it wasn’t for my brother, I would have been sitting in my cozy house, surrounded by my pack of Poodles, happily minding my own business. Instead of frantically dialing 911.
The police recognized the dead man. They identified him as a vagrant known only as Pete. They recognized Snowball too. By the time the authorities arrived, the little Maltese was tucked snugly inside Aunt Peg’s warm jacket. The problem of what to do with him had already been settled.
Pete was another matter.
Aunt Peg has never been able to resist the lure of a mystery that needs solving. And I had plenty of questions of my own. By later that afternoon she and I were already trying to figure out who Pete was, where he’d come from, and how he’d ended up dead on my brother’s new Christmas tree farm. Aunt Peg and I thought we might be able to offer Pete’s family closure. We hoped to be able to return Snowball to their loving home.
Little did we know that things weren’t nearly as simple as they seemed. And that we were on the trail of a cold-blooded killer who didn’t care how many people’s holidays ended up in ruins.
You can read more about Melanie in Wagging Through The Snow, the 21st book in the “Melanie Travis” mystery series.
Melanie Travis needs a little peace from her busy life this Christmas. But the usual holiday hubbub is a joy compared to the killer surprise she finds tucked underneath the tree . . .
With a demanding teaching job at Connecticut’s elite Howard Academy and five poodles scampering around the house, Melanie barely has energy for the upcoming Christmas rush. But she unwraps an unexpected challenge when her brother and ex-husband, elated by the recent success of their country café, make a spontaneous bid on a dilapidated pine tree farm. Although the ten-acre lot had been a popular seasonal destination while the original owner was still alive, it’ll take some sprucing up—and a small miracle or two—before the neglected place is in shape for December.
Unfortunately, the impromptu business venture goes cold when the group discovers a purebred Maltese whimpering in the snow-covered grove—right beside a dead body. Pete, a squatter who camped out on the land, apparently met his end after a fallen fir tree branch knocked him on the head. But as Melanie and Aunt Peg investigate Pete’s history and the terrible habit that cost him everything, it’s clear his death was no accident. Now, Melanie must run through a flurry of likely suspects and muzzle a dogged murderer in time—or she’ll be next on someone’s deadly list.
# # # # # # # # # # #
Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a print copy of Wagging Through The Snow. U.S. entries only, please. The giveaway ends September 29, 2017. Good luck everyone!
# # # # # # # # # # #
About the author
Laurien Berenson is a bestselling author whose books have sold two million copies worldwide. Her cozy mystery series revolves around the world of dog shows, a milieu she knows well as her family has been involved in the sport of dogs for three generations. There are currently twenty-one Melanie Travis canine mysteries including the newest book, Wagging Through The Snow.
Berenson is a four-time winner of the Maxwell Award for Fiction from the Dog Writers Assoc. of America and a winner of the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award. She is also an Agatha and Macavity nominee. Her work has appeared in The New York Times as well as numerous magazines. She is a graduate of Vassar College, and she and her husband live on a farm in Kentucky, surrounded by horses and dogs.
Connect with Laurien at laurienberenson.com, on Facebook, on Twitter and on Goodreads.
All comments are welcomed.