cover image Unleashed


Laurien Berenson. Kensington Publishing Corporation, $20 (320pp) ISBN 978-1-57566-596-2

In this workman-like and winning cozy, the seventh in the series featuring teacher and dog-lover Melanie Travis (Underdog; Hush Puppy; etc.), Berenson takes readers deep into the dog-show subculture. A busy schedule is all that is keeping Melanie and her fianc , software designer Sam Driver, from setting a wedding date. Happily shepherding her six-year-old to soccer camp and preparing for her poodle's first litter, Melanie is alarmed when Sam's ex-wife, Sheila Vaughn, moves to the area. Vaughn has teamed up with an old college buddy of Sam's to launch a new magazine, Woof!, which promises to inject a little National Enquirer-style gossip into the standard, dull dog-show reporting. The inaugural issue does indeed sully the reputation of one prominent handler--and more nasty stories are in the pipeline--but Sheila misses all the excitement because someone strangles her the night before the magazine is due to make its debut at a dog show. The murder not only stirs up the dog pack, it also throws an emotional monkey wrench into Melanie's love life, for she must face the fact that Sam still harbors deep feelings for Sheila. In the course of her sniffing about, Melanie meets a range of personalities on the dog-show circuit, from the breeders to the photographers, but it's the milieu that stands out rather than the scantily drawn characters. There are some tender moments here, however, and the ending is a surprise on more than one front. (Sept.)