“Peg and Rose Solve a Murder” by Laurien Berenson

It’s your deal.

Cards cut, they’re in your hand, and now you dole them out. Thirteen cards each, one at a time around the table, let the game begin. Do you bid, or pass and hope that your partner has a good hand? As in the new mystery, “Peg and Rose Solve a Murder” by Laurien Berenson, do you even have a shot at winning?

It should’ve been a very good day.

Peg Turnbull was judging at a dog show, and being with dogs was her favorite thing. The dog show community in her Connecticut area was close-knit, she knew everyone, the sun was shining – and then she saw her sister-in-law, Rose.

Back when Peg and her dear, departed Max were first married, a teenage Rose had just entered a convent. Fast forward through the years, Rose left the nunnery to marry a priest, blah-blah, Max died, Rose and her husband moved nearby, Peg still didn’t get along with that woman.

And there Rose was, ruining a perfectly good dog-judging day with a ridiculous invitation for Peg to join her in a bridge club

After so many decades, Rose Donovan felt it was time to try to connect with her sister-in-law. Rose had things to apologize for, and neither of them were getting any younger. Years ago, Peg used to play bridge or something, didn’t she? So maybe they could – well, if not be friends, at least not be enemies anymore.

As it turned out, the bridge club needed two new hands and they welcomed Peg and Rose into the fold immediately – although the two women could tell right away that there was big drama inside the room. There were hints of impropriety and personality clashes, both of which had Peg intrigued. She loved nothing more than a good mystery. 

So when one of the bridge players was shot inside his home, she wondered. Would Rose make a good partner outside of the bridge club, too?

For a mystery lover, “Peg and Rose Solve a Murder” could be a bit of a let-down. 

At least a third of this book passes before there’s even a whiff of crime, in favor of dog show and bridge plotlines and character introduction. The murder itself feels almost like a footnote or a minor faux pas once it finally appears, and it’s only discussed in terms relative to the people in the bridge club, as if no one else in Connecticut could’ve been the killer.

Don’t put this book down yet, though.

Author Laurien Berenson writes with a breezy flair that’s perfect for this kind of mystery, and that breeze blows in the humor. Berenson’s Peg is feisty and ornery, a perfect companion to prim, fussy Rose. Seriously: you know a TV series like this, don’t you?

Mystery mavens who love dogs will particularly love this book, as will readers who enjoy sleuths who are past A Certain Age. If that’s you, though it has its bumpiness, grab “Peg and Rose Solve a Mystery.” You’ll like it a great deal.

Author: Laurien Berenson

c.2002, Kensington Cozies $26.00, 290 pages