The Bark Before Christmas By Laurien Berenson: Review/Giveaway

Nov 28, 2015 | 2015 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze, Pets, Sandra Murphy

by Sandra Murphy

Details at the end of this post on how to win a copy of The Bark Before Christmas, along with a link to order the book.

Melanie is barely back at Howard Academy as a tutor for special-needs kids when the principal decides she’s the perfect person to oversee the annual Christmas bazaar—which is only a week away, the previous chairwoman having just eloped to Cabo with her lawyer. Luckily, Melanie is well liked by the teachers and parents, so all are willing to pitch in to help. The only snag is that the Santa hired for Pet Photos with Santa cancels the day before the bazaar. Before Melanie can panic, the principal says a substitute called and volunteered to do the job.

The bazaar goes smoothly or as smoothly as those things go—there are complaints about booth location, and the pets go beyond dog and cat when students bring in Gilas and a Shetland pony. But, overall, everyone is selling, there’s a line for Santa, and the school’s making money. book

Well, it was until late afternoon when Santa takes a break and disappears, a dog gets loose, and another goes missing. Of course, it is Kiltie, the Westminster-bound West Highland White Terrier, and the most winning dog in his class at dog shows. Even though Melanie had nothing to do with it, Sondra, the dog’s owner, blames Melanie and says she’d better find the dog, no matter what, or everyone in sight will be sued.

When Santa is found dead in the parking lot of the local cemetery, minus the dog, it’s clear the dog didn’t escape but was dognapped. Now the question is—who killed Santa Claus?

It’s not like Melanie doesn’t have a few things to do herself. There’s still Christmas shopping, baking, the tree to get, and dealing with Aunt Peg—which is a full-time job in itself. No one wins with Peg.

Melanie manages to pull everything together with the help of her husband, Sam. Davie, her oldest son, is now twelve. Kevin, age two and a half (98% energy, 2% nap) is a treat to the reader and a challenge for Melanie who has more patience than is imaginable. She’s got her six Standard Poodles to care for, school to teach for whatever students are not already off on ski trips with their families, Claire and Bob’s wedding to prepare for (Bob being Melanie’s ex and Claire being the best thing that ever happened to Bob, according to Melanie), a possible murder to solve, and a missing dog to find. If Melanie weren’t so nice, it would be easy to hate her for the way she manages to get it all done without getting frazzled.

The mystery is a good one with all the clues coming together at the end. Melanie doesn’t put herself in dangerous situations or push for information. She’s a person you’d like to know, who could tell you a lot about dog shows, and who would introduce you to her friends and family and consider you part of them. Reading Berenson’s books is like visiting with an old friend you haven’t seen in a while—no catching up, just a continuation from where you left off last time.

This is Book Eighteen in the series. Start here and then backtrack to see how Melanie’s life with poodles came about.

To enter to win a copy of The Bark Before Christmas, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Bark,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 5, 2015. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.

You can use this link to order this book:

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the arch, in the land of blues, booze and shoes—St Louis, Missouri. While writing magazine articles to support her mystery book habit, she secretly polishes two mystery books of her own, hoping, someday, they will see the light of Barnes and Noble. You can also find several of Sandra’s short stories on UnTreed Reads including her newest, “Arthur”, included in the anthology titled, Flash and Bang, available now.


  1. yes please

  2. The cover is adorable, and I do love reading holiday cozy books! Thank you for the giveaway.

  3. Cute Cover and I like the sound of the plot. Thanks for the contest…Marilyn

  4. I love reading and always have. I am 62 and still love to curl up and read a good book. I would love to bein a copy of the book. As an owner of 2 Westies, Yogi and Bear, the cover is an added plus. My email is Thanks!!

  5. Please enter me. I love Laurien’s books. missmouse1683(at)yahoo(dot)com

  6. The article was a great review of the book. Thanks for the chance to win a copy!!

  7. This story sounds charming for Christmas. Even death can be charming in a good cozy.

  8. Yes please. I love this series.

  9. Another good book to read

  10. Wonderful author. Always look forward to her next book.

  11. I am just getting this series started and can’t wait to read this one. Thanks for the chance to win.

  12. Would love to start reading this mystery, especially with Christmas on the way! I have picked up some of the early books in the series but they are still in my TBR stacks. And would happily start here and work back!

  13. I think I would love this book!!

  14. We have a winner!

  15. I love this cover.

  16. Some of my favorite authors, and I love the cover.


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