Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Sandie's Corner - A Couple from Donna Andrews

Sandie's reading Donna Andrews' latest book, The Real Macaw, so there should be a review in the next couple weeks. In the meantime, she sent along a couple reviews of Donna Andrews' earlier books in the Meg Langslow series.

By Donna Andrews
Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Minotaur
October, 2001

The third Meg Langslow escapade is truly an adventure.  It takes place over a weekend of reenacting the Battle of Yorktown in full dress garb and period authenticity.  Yet the battle is only the climax of a vintage Donna Andrews mystery.

Meg Langslow is a blacksmith by trade, selling her wares at craft fairs and on commission.  Her extensive family helps by buying and talking about her fine craftsmanship.  If only she could convince Michael Waterston’s mother of her worth as a mate for her son.  This year is Mrs. Waterson’s first in running the fair, and she has demanded that all who attend be dressed in full authentic period costumes, including as many tourists and customers as possible.  Those who are not are fined by the “Anachronism Police.”

Unfortunately, murder appears to be timeless, and a dead body turns up behind the curtains in Meg’s booth.  Seems half the battlefield might have a grudge against this corpse, so the local sheriff appoints a deputy to take charge of the investigation.  Meg does her own snooping both in front of and behind the scenes.  She steps up her efforts when she is convinced the deputy has arrested the wrong man.

Meg's adventures are not meant to be outwardly hilarious as she seeks to clear her friends and relatives alternately accused of the crime, but they often end up quite humorous none the less.  Meg’s attitude is just as sarcastic as ever, and she is constantly fighting with her quick temper.  However, she does find herself endeared to most all, despite her incessant quick wit.  Even Meg’s mother says “how wonderful it was that Meg had grown up from a cantankerous child into such an even-tempered young lady.”  To which Meg says:  “The first time I heard her say it, I burst out laughing.”

Having read Andrews’s earlier entries in this series, MURDER WITH PEACOCKS and MURDER WITH PUFFINS, I found this just a tad predictable.  Meg is constantly snooping where she doesn’t belong, often with the protests of local law enforcement who are not as besotted with her amateur detecting skills as her family.  She seems to always have a quick retort on hand for every comment. 

However, that said, this is a delightful cozy with zany goings on abounding.  Family is omnipresent, and they seem universal in their love for Meg.  Her beau Michael is equally likeable, tho not nearly as eccentric as the entire Langslow clan.  This charming entry moves along smoothly with an even-keeled pace.  I even learned some history on muskets and rifles and proper colonial attire.

The adventures of Meg and Michael are fun to watch and cheer onward. 
By Donna Andrews
St. Martin’s Minotaur, January, 2003

A buzzard is an odd pet for an office staff unless they are the computer programmers at Mutant Wizards where they are hard at work on a new version of the computer game Lawyers from Hell.  Meg Langslow is pitching in on the switchboard while an injury from her blacksmithing vocation has her sidelined.  Sound calm and serene?  Think again!

The staff has just moved into space they share with six psychotherapists who are not used to guarding the door against rabid fans and spies from rival companies.  Security becomes a greater issue when an employee known for his practical jokes is found dead on the automated mail cart that follows an invisible track around the office.  Ted was strangled with a mouse cord in a move that resembles “purse fu” that Meg taught the staff from her martial arts defense class.  However, police seem to think Meg’s brother Rob, the owner of Mutant Wizards, is the most suspicious when they find a blackmail note in his in-box. 

Bouncing ideas off her boyfriend Michael who is currently acting in Hollywood, Meg visits Ted’s home and finds a secret stash of an odd collection of items that includes a list of code names that Meg suspects are all blackmail victims.  She begins to decipher just who is who on this list from names such as the Voyeur, the Hacker, the Ninja, Mata Hari, and the Iron Maiden.  As she figures out secret identities and night-time antics, Meg pieces together just who had it in for Ted.

This is another delightful entry in the Meg Langslow series (earlier entries are MURDER WITH PEACOCKS, MURDER WITH PUFFINS, REVENGE OF THE WROUGHT-IRON FLAMINGOS).  There’s no need to read the earlier entries to enjoy the hilarity of this one; but the clarification of just how eccentric Meg’s family really is from those earlier tales would not dull your enjoyment of this installment in the Langslow history.

I have enjoyed all the entries in this series, but I found this one more advanced in its writing.  The story is just as loony and madcap as ever but the biting sarcasm is gone that previously rubbed me the wrong way.  There is no endless speculation ad nauseum to move the plot along.   Sure the characters are just as quirky but a bit more believable and likeable.  Who doesn’t have a mother with decorating tips and whose family is into gossip?  Well, maybe not as deeply as the Langslow clan who can figure out who the biker dude searching for the pregnant cat under a car in the dark parking lot at midnight is.  Meg’s dad, the doctor who adores mystery novels, is in his element and tags along with the medical examiner.  Rob is his usual lovable and trusting self.  And I got a good chuckle over the pink teddy bears who spout affirmations and the changes the programmers make in the numerous bears around the office.

Meg, well, if she can’t find a temp to take on this challenged office, she be stuck there forever.  Let’s hope not.  Her misadventures are too much fun to miss.

Donna Andrews' website is www.donnaandrews.com


Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Looking forward to reading Donna's latest! Thanks for the look back and some earlier books...reminds me to pull them out for a reread. :)

Sandie Herron said...

I so enjoy Donna's books, don't you? If you can just ride along with the chaos that is sure to happen, then it's great fun. We only have to go a few pages in to her latest to find the beginning of a real adventure. The town where Meg lives has decided they don't have the funds for a no-kill animal shelter, so Meg's dad brings home all the animals slated for the needle. And it's quite a menagerie.

While her books don't need to be read it in order, if you want to watch her family grow, it's worth it but easily followed without reading them in order. I think Meg's dad is such a hoot.

Sure hope you enjoy THE REAL MACAW as much as I am. Review to come shortly!

Liz V. said...

Found a little bit went long way. Chaos isn't high on my list right now.

Sandie Herron said...

Take comfort in the fact that it isn't real, and it's not happening in YOUR house!