Friday, May 10, 2013

Book Review: Swan for the Money by Donna Andrews (Meg Langslow #11)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Animals antics and a decent mystery...
Cons: ...that's a tad uneven in the first half.
The Bottom Line:
Comedy and plot
Slightly uneven but will
Make you laugh out loud

Black Swans, Fainting Goats, a Rose Show, and a Murder to Boot

Whenever I pick up a Meg Langslow mystery, I know I am in for a treat.  Author Donna Andrews always manages to find humor and create some general madness in the middle of a decent mystery.  Swan for the Money is no exception.

It's just hours from the first annual Caerphilly Rose Show, and things are getting out of hand.  Not only does Meg have to organize the volunteers and make sure everything is set up correctly, but someone is sabotaging her parents' best shot at the black rose award, something unique to this competition.

Things aren't going well for Mrs. Winkleson either.  The eccentric woman is hosting the show on her estate.  She is obsessed with trying to make everything in the world conform to black and white.  She even buys animals based solely on that color scheme.  And her little dog has been kidnapped.  Things get even worse when a body shows up.  Does it have any connection to the other things going on?  Who is taking this show seriously enough to kill?

While Meg's family is funny as usual, they don't provide the best laughs here.  Instead, those go to Mrs. Winkleson and her animals.  She has two black swans who create several problems.  But my favorite were the scenes with the fainting goats.  These are goats who freeze up whenever they are startled, and Donna Andrews manages to weave them in and out of the story to perfect comic effect.

At times, the mystery plot can get overshadowed by the antics.  In fact, I did feel the book was getting a tad slow just about the half way point.  But that didn't last for long, and the pace never slacked again.  Instead, she weaves the clues and red herrings in and out of the comedy perfectly, leaving us with a climax that is a great blend of both.

Meg is truly the only sane character in the book, but all the other feel real.  It's not that you can point to any of them and say, "I know someone exactly like that."  Instead, their behavior feels real for the setting of this book.  I think just about everyone provides a chuckle or a smile at some point, even Meg and her reactions to the lunacy going on around her.

The writing is absolutely outstanding.  It provides the perfect atmosphere for the story.  The weather is overcast and rainy the entire time, and I could feel it every time I was reading.  The descriptions of Mrs. Winkleson's black and white mansion were also vivid and a hoot without slowing things down in the slightest.

Swan for the Money is another great comedic mystery from a master of the genre.  You could effectively start the series anywhere and enjoy the comedy just as much.  So start this delightful series today.

And what better way to start than by reading the Meg Langslow Mysteries in order.

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