I love Donna Andrews’ Meg Langslow series. (In fairness, I am also quite fond of Donna herself. I don’t think I’ll ever get over the novelty that I know some of my favorite writers; I have been and always will be a fanboy, untoward as it may be as a colleague.)
But this series, for me, is the definition of what a cozy mystery is; because it makes you feel cozy and comfortable. Meg, along with her family and friends in wonderful small-town Caerphilly, Virginia, are people you enjoy visiting and spending time with; there’s really nary a one with a mean bone in their body, and whenever someone with such a mean bone turns up, they inevitably end up dead. This series makes me laugh, and every time I close the latest, finished, I feel satisfied and warm. (This affection I feel for the Meg series is very similar, if not exactly the same, to the way I felt about Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series, which is one of my all-time favorites.)
And the Christmas ones are particularly good–not that there’s ever a bad one; I’d be hard-pressed to pick a least favorite in the series. I also can’t think of a single one where I haven’t laughed at least three or four times aloud when reading.
I‘d almost dozed off, even though I was sitting upright in a hard kitchen chair, but that woke me up in a hurry. Had someone actually shouted something about wombats? Or had I only imagined it?
The kitchen was–well, quiet didn’t apply. The Christmas carols playing over the little hidden loudspeakers were a trifle louder than optimal. I should find the remote and fix that. But it was peaceful here. Just me, sipping a cup of hot spiced cider left over from last night’s holiday party and enjoying a few moments of relaxation before I opened my notebook-that-tells-me-when-to-breathe to start what I knew would be a busy day.
I heard scuffling noises coming from somewhere. Hard to tell where over the dramatic horn introduction to “Joy to the World.” I got up and limped over to the kitchen window, still favoring the ankle I’d sprained a week ago. No random wombats running amok outside. No marsupials of any kind in the backyard, and given how loudly heaven ‘n’ nature were singing over the little loudspeakers, a herd of elephants could have been stampeding in the front yard without my noticing.
I could be incorrect, but I believe every book in this series opens with dialogue, which– out of any context other than this is an Andrews novel–always makes you think what and then grin.
I also think one of the reasons I love the character so much is because Meg never gets upset or loses her temper or has her equilibrium disrupted; and given the unusual circumstances which her enormous family and friend group generally seem to put her into, that is actually saying something. There’s always something out-of-the-ordinary going on–extreme croquet, fainting sheep, emus on the loose, wombats in the basement–and yet Meg never lets this upset her equilibrium; simply rolls up her sleeves and wades in with grim determination.
In this latest Christmas mystery, Meg has injured her ankle and as such has to miss a ski trip with her husband Michael and their twin sons. Her grandfather has hired someone to paint birds for his next book, and the painter is a pain-in-the-patoot. He’s moved into the library of Meg’s beautiful old Victorian (how I envy her that library) to paint jays and mockingbirds…but he let the mockingbirds loose because “the bars of the cages impede his sightline.” The mockingbirds are now loose throughout the big house, and everyone has been forced to wear hats to protect themselves from not only attacks but, um, dive bombing attacks. He also sneaks cigarettes inside, and Meg is almost at the end of her rope with Quartermayne. His harassed assistant, Harris, is no help in controlling the man or getting him to observe house rules–and bill collectors and ex-wives have a habit of showing up to try to throttle the back alimony out of him. Soon, he’s dead, and Meg’s got another murderer to catch before the big annual family Christmas celebration.
This series is an absolute joy, and this latest entry is as well.
And now I am bitter because I am out of Donna Andrews books (why I always hold one back on my favorite authors), and will have to wait until August for a new one.