I’ve chosen a cosy by Laurien Berenson for this week’s contribution to the Crime Fiction Alphabet. Watchdog is the fifth of 15 books in Berenson’s series featuring Melanie Travis: a special education teacher and new-ish owner of a show-quality standard poodle called Faith. In this outing Melanie’s brother Frank has gone into a shonky moneymaking scheme with a property developer named Marcus Rattigan and when Rattigan is killed Frank becomes the number one suspect. Wanting to clear her brother’s name (and of course not trusting the police to be able to find a single clue as is the way of things in cosy-land) Melanie soon discovers Rattigan had an angry ex-wife, an unhappy mistress and a swag of residents who are none to keen on Rattigan’s aim to ‘yuppify’ their neighbourhood.
The series isn’t likely to set the world on fire but it is well written, solidly paced and, most important for my cosy reading, full of gentle humour. Melanie’s Aunt Peg is a judge of champion poodles and Melanie’s staunchest supporter. She’s a great character and, for my money, funnier and more interesting than Stephanie Plum’s loopy grandmother. Melanie is a single mum (though she does have a love interest) with lots of irons in the fire and her juggling of work, family and poodles is credibly portrayed. I grew up in a dog-showing household and the antics and obsessions of dog showing fanatics depicted here are very realistic and offer lots of humorous potential. My recommendation for a lazy afternoon for dog lovers who can see the funny side of their obsession is to read Watchdog then check out Best in Show (a comedy movie about dog shows).