The ninth in a series (Black Ribbon, 1995, etc.) directed toward passionate dog fanciers--and if the audience seems a narrow one, meditate on the number nine. Detective/journalist Holly Winter covers the Alaskan Malamute National Specialty Show at a Hawaiian- theme hotel in Danville, Conn. She hangs out with her two canine contenders, Rowdy and Kimi; her cousin Leah, a handler; her boyfriend, a vet; her ex-boyfriend, a traveler in dog sex aids; oodles of her girlfriends, all fighting over dogs--and, as it turns out, a murderer. An elderly judge is killed, and the prize lamp bearing the fur of an ex-champion seems to have been the weapon. Though Conant is capable of a decent quip (``their noisy, smelly wedding was going to ruin our lovely dog show''), she specializes in ironic metaphors teased through run-on sentences of indecent length. She belabors her jokes, in other words, while revealing a steely-eyed and humorless determination to pack her prose with more dog lore than it can gracefully accommodate. The murderer was not a good dog person and is no loss. But, meanwhile, Conant risks losing mystery readers who might like warm puppies okay but who think happiness requires a wider worldview and a lighter wit.