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    UNLEASHED by Laurien Berenson

    A MELANIE TRAVIS MYSTERY

    Kensington Books, September 2000

    Melanie Travis's life is just about perfect. She has a wonderful fiance, Sam Driver, who shares her interest in showing poodles, a pregnant poodle, a summer vacation (she is a teacher), and a son who is enjoying his summer soccer camp. Unfortunately, things may have been too good. Sheila Vaughn, Sam's ex-wife is in town and making a play to win Sam back. When Sheila is murdered, Sam asks Melanie to investigate but seems devestated himself. Is he really ready to be anyone's fiance? And what was he doing the night of the murder.

    Travis doesn't buy the police theory that an unknown intruder was surprised by Sheila's return and panicked. Sheila's dogs were outside and she would only have put them there if she knew who was coming. But who did Sheila know? Sam, Sheila's business partner, and Melanie are the obvious suspects. Melanie is pretty sure she didn't do it (although she isn't too broken up about it), but what about Sam?

    Laurien Berenson (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by this author) tells an intriguing story about murder and show dogs. Sheila was in the midst of launching a dog show oriented magazine that probed the scandles and secrets of the industry. This gives plenty of motives for murder, but also gives Berenson a device for bringing in more of the intriguing information about dogs and the world of dog showing. Indeed, the dogs steal the show. Berenson provided plenty of clues as well as red herrings. To some extent, however, the resolution was disappointing and the true killer's motivation somewhat unconvincing. Still, Berenson's light style and the inherent appeal of the dog show circuit make this novel worth the look.

    Two Stars

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