The Bark Before ChristmasHey, how you doin’?

My name is Champion Cedar Crest Scimitar, but most people just call me Tar. I’m a black Standard Poodle, which you probably already know if you’ve ever met my family because their house is filled with big black Poodles. Like six. Which outnumber the people around here. Not that that’s a problem, mind you. I get the impression they like it that way. “They” being Melanie Travis, her husband Sam Driver, and their two sons, Davey and Kevin. And then there’s Aunt Peg. Don’t even get me started on her. She goes to dog shows and judges Poodles, but really I think her main job is showing up and causing trouble.

I guess I would know about that because I’ve had occasion to cause some trouble myself. The thing is, I never mean to do it. Things just seem to go wrong when I’m around. Car keys disappear, water bowls go flying, couch cushions explode. That kind of stuff. I’ve heard people say that I’m dumb but I’m pretty sure they mean that as an endearment. Besides, Faith—she’s the matriarch of this Poodle family—says there’s no such thing as a dumb Standard Poodle. And she should know, because she knows everything.

Anyway, back to Melanie Travis. What she’s really good at is fixing trouble. (Lucky for me, right?) Take the Howard Academy Christmas Bazaar. In case you’re wondering why I even know about that, trust me, it’s all anybody has been talking about for the last two weeks. That was when Melanie got the last minute assignment to take over running the event after the previous chairwoman eloped to Mexico. I guess somebody figured that Melanie was too level-headed to ever pull a stunt like that. Which only goes to show that they don’t know her like I do. You want to find out what a person is really like? Talk to their dog. That’s who will give you the dirt. Now don’t get me wrong, Melanie’s a great person, but level-headed? No way. Most days she’s like a hamster on a wheel, running as fast as she can just to keep up.

The end result of all that running around was a pretty great Christmas bazaar. (That’s what Davey and Kevin said.) Except for one thing. The Santa Claus Melanie hired to have his pictures taken with people’s pets, made off with one of them. Kiltie is a West Highland White Terrier. In dog show circles he’s known as Champion Westglen Braveheart. If I was still showing with Sam, Kiltie and I would be butting heads because he’s a Best in Show winner too.

Turns out that Kiltie belongs to one of Howard Academy’s biggest benefactors. And that she blames Melanie for the fact that he disappeared because she was in charge when it happened. Oh, and that Santa? He turned up dead shortly thereafter. So that’s another fine mess, as they say. I figure Melanie will find a way to get things sorted out. She usually does. She’d better hurry up though. Christmas is coming fast and I know she’s got some last minute shopping and tree-trimming to do. Because as it happens, I might have accidently brushed against the Christmas tree a few minutes ago. Who knew it was that easy to make a tree fall over? The ones outside are a lot sturdier. So the fact that this fancy tree is on the ground isn’t my fault. Really. You can take my word for that.


You can read more about Tar in The Bark Before Christmas, the 18th book in the “Melanie Travis” mystery series, published by Kensington and available on September 29, 2015. The first book in the series is A Pedigree to Die For.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 12 a.m. eastern on Wednesday, September 30 for the chance to win a print copy of The Bark Before Christmas. (US entries only, please.) Good luck everyone!

About the author
Laurien Berenson is the author of thirty novels that have sold more than 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 eighteen Melanie Travis canine mysteries, including the newest book, The Bark Before Christmas. The new e-book novella, A Christmas Howl, will be published in October.

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.

You can find Laurien at www.laurienberenson.com and on Facebook

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