Peg and Rose Solve a Murder (Peg and Rose #1). Laurien Berenson. Kensington Publishing (2022). 304 pages. Genre: Cozy Mystery.
First Line: "Peg Turnbull was standing in the hot sun on a plot of hard-packed grass, staring at a row of Standard Poodles that was lined up along one side of her show ring."
Summary: Out of the blue, Peg's sister-in-law Rose shows up at a dog show Peg is judging. The two of them have a long history of avoiding one another, so Peg can't imagine what she is doing there. It turns out Rose wants to get to know Peg better and invites her to join a bridge club. Peg is suspicious of Rose's motives, but decides to join the club. Things do not go smoothly. It is hard to change habits that have been in place for many years. However, both Peg and Rose seem willing to make an effort. Further complicating matters, Peg has not played bridge for many years. During the first club meeting, Peg notices some of the players signaling one another under the table and witnesses a man discreetly hand money to another player. Peg and Rose try to play smarter and do a little better at the second meeting. But the next day, one of the club members is found shot to death in his home. Peg and Rose try to put the pieces together and figure out what happened.
My thoughts: I have to admit, I liked Peg from page one. She is a no-nonsense, practical woman who loves Poodles and knows a lot about them. While she is initially suspicious of Rose and her intentions, she quickly pushes her suspicion away and gives Rose the benefit of the doubt. There were times Peg was being unreasonable. While she may have taken some time to realize it herself, she eventually did and apologized. I appreciated this about her.
I also appreciated Rose and her willingness to try and repair their relationship. Rose was Peg's husband's sister. Peg's husband died about ten years ago and the two of them have had very little contact since then. Rose was a nun in her younger days, but after thirty years in a convent, she met a priest and fell in love. Rose and Peter have been married for ten years. Peter was a great character. He has a sense of humor and encourages Rose to do the right thing.
This book is full of information about dogs, especially Poodles. Peg is a show judge and we learn about what she looks for when judging. She also owns three Standard Poodles, one who competes in shows. I loved the descriptions of her house and the ways it had been planned to include the dogs and their care. There is also a story line dealing with a rescue dog that was really interesting.
As far as the mystery goes, there were many layers to uncover. At first, no one seems to know anything, but soon bits of information begin to surface that help Peg and Rose figure out what is going on. Peg and Rose did not work with the police - in fact they ignored the detective's request to stay out of the investigation. While that is a common trope in many cozy mysteries, this one really felt like Peg and Rose were completely investigating on their own. For me, that was a negative, but only a minor one.
Laurien Berenson has also written the long standing cozy mystery series about Melanie Travis. Peg is Melanie's aunt. I have not read that series, but Peg and Rose have both made appearances in it. Melanie and her family are mentioned in this series as well. I never felt like I was missing anything by not having read that series. In fact, I liked the writing so well in this series that I just might want to pick that one up while I wait for the next installment of Peg and Rose.
"Aware that she'd be on her feet for most of the day, she had dressed that morning with comfort in mind. A cotton shirtwaist dress swirled around her legs. A broad brimmed straw hat shaded her face and neck. Her feet wore rubber-soled sneakers, size ten."
"'You're telling me that those Poodles understand what you say?'
'Of course they do,' Peg replied. 'That part's not even up for debate. Otherwise what would be the point of talking to them?'"
"'You had a cookie yesterday.'
'That was different. It was oatmeal and had raisins.'
'I see,' said Peg. 'So almost like eating a salad then.'
'Precisely.' A smile played around Rose's lips."
"Melanie often called Peg nosy, but she was wrong about that. What Peg actually felt was a driving need to keep thinking, to keep moving. She wanted to be a busy person. She wanted to get up every morning with a sense of purpose and a long list of things to do."