I absolutely adore the Meg Langslow series by Donna Andrews.
When I was taping Susan Larson’s radio show the other day (oooh, how fabulous do I sound?), one of the things she asked me about was, simply, what exactly is a cozy mystery? I don’t remember what I said–something about how the primary point of them was to make the reader feel comfortable, and escape the worries of the every day, or something equally moronic–and of course, as always, later on I came up with the perfect example of how to define a cozy. Cozies are about communities, pleasant and warm communities where neighbors take care of neighbors and everyone watches out for each other and primarily is operating from a good place. The main character has to be someone the reader can not only identify with but has to like; and whenever there’s a new volume in the series it feels like we as readers are getting another lovey vacation to visit with dear old friends we only get to see once or maybe twice a year (fortunately, Andrews is on a two-book per year schedule; her Christmas crime caper for this year just landed at the Lost Apartment this week).
This is precisely the feeling i get when I read one of the Meg Langslow novels; like I’ve taken a lovely little vacation to my favorite little city in Virginia, Caerphilly (which I always pronounce “carefully”), and see Meg and her friends and family. It’s a place where everyone is neighborly or nice–and those who aren’t, everyone tries to steer clear of or just accepts that they just aren’t as nice as everyone else (they inevitably end up dead, anyway). Caerphilly College, where Meg’s husband is chair of the Drama Department, has served up any number of choice murder victims over the years–there was that horrible English department for awhile, and of course everyone loathes the Business Department; which is the source for the mystery in this exceptionally fun and funny mystery.
“We need more peacocks!”
I glanced up from my notebook-that-tells-me-when-to-breathe, as I call my combination to-do list and calendar. Dad was standing just inside the back door. He wore elbow-length white leather gauntlets and a pith helmet with heavy netting thrown back to reveal his face. His beekeeping outfit.
“If you’re looking for peacocks in the beehives, that’s probably why you’re not finding any,” I said. “The pair you gave us for Christmas tend to hang out at the far end of Rose Noir’s herb field.”
“I know,” Dad said. “I was tending the hives when I noticed them. They’ve lost all their feathers.”
“It’s called molting,” I said. “I hear they do it every year.”
“Well, I know that.” He knocked some mud off his garden boots and clomped over to sit across the kitchen table from me. “I’ve already called Clarence Rutledge.”
I looked down at my notebook. I was up earlier than I liked and had a busy day ahead of me–busier than usual, thanks to all the things Mother had asked me to take care of in preparation for my brother Rob’s upcoming wedding to Delaney, his fiancée, now only a few days away. Then I glanced up at the clock. Already eight o’clock. Which said everything about how I expected my day to fo. Most mornings I’d have said “only eight o’clock.” But if there was something wrong with our peacocks…
The series comes full circle with this volume; the first in the series was Murder with Peacocks, and our first introduction to Meg came with her heavily involved in the planning on not just one, but three weddings, including her mother’s and her brother Rob’s; Rob’s fiancée is the one with the bright idea for peacocks as wedding decor (I remember thinking as I read this, that woman has no knowledge whatsoever about peacocks) and here we are again, with Meg heavily involved in planning another wedding for her brother Rob…and once again, peacocks are involved (there’s one hilarious scene in which Meg has to take a truck to “borrow” peacocks for the wedding since hers are molting, and she gets trapped in the truck when the peafowl launch an attack).
But as Meg goes about her day to day life with all the added burdens of the wedding planning, her nephew Kevin asks her for help. He and a friend have been doing a podcast about cold cases in Virginia, and someone tried to run his partner over with a car the previous weekend. Could this be connected with one of their cold cases? Meg, mainly to get out of wedding duties, agrees to look into the cold cases–which include a cheating scandal at the business school and a suicide, as well as the disappearance of an exceptionally talented coffee house singer from Charlottesville–which leads her to a lot of questionable antics (such as breaking into the business department to look at donor records) that are not only hilarious and improbable but Andrews always makes it completely realistic and completely believable, which is one of the many reasons I love this series so much: each volume is hilarious, completely unexpected, and absolutely marvelous, with Meg managing to never be caught off-guard or nonplused by anything that happens or comes up.
I absolutely love this series, and it’s always a delight when there’s a new one to read–and I do have the new one to read already! Huzzah!