Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Book Review: Murder with Peacocks by Donna Andrews (Meg Langslow #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Funny situations and characters
Cons: Mystery gets lost in the weddings
The Bottom Line:
Dead body, weddings
Mystery gets lost in the fun
But there's lots of fun

Light on the Mystery; Heavy on the Fun

Meg Langslow has agreed to be the maid of honor at three separate weddings - her best friend, her brother, and her mother's remarriage. All three of the brides place the planning in her capable hands, leaving her running around trying to make sure all three weddings go smoothly. Which isn't easy when one wants a theme wedding but won't decide on dresses and another wants peacocks. Then, an out-of-town visitor coming to one of the weddings turns up dead under mysterious circumstances. Meg's father is convinced it's murder and drags her into his investigation. Soon, mysterious accidents convince Meg that her dad is right. But can she find the murderer before anyone else dies and still make sure the weddings go as planned?

This is a fun debut mystery novel. It's filled with eccentric characters that make it a pleasure to read. I often found myself chuckling or laughing at their behavior. The characters come off as believable and not caricatures.

However, as a mystery it leaves a little to be desired since solving the murder often takes a back seat to the antics of the brides and Meg's efforts to deal with their latest ideas. Still, I found the book a pleasure to read. The story is narrated first person, and Meg's asides on the action contain some of the sharpest humor. The romantic sub-plot with Michael is amusing because we as the reader know what's going on, even if Meg has no clue. By the end of the book, the mystery has been solved and all the plots tied up, leaving me anxious for more.

An interesting note is that instead of chapters, the author breaks the action down by day. It makes for rather uneven breaks in the narrative. Some days take only a couple of paragraphs while others go on for 15 pages. Since the plot takes place over two months, this makes it much easier to keep track of the passing time.

In lesser hands, Murder with Peacocks would have fallen flat, but in her debut, Donna Andrews proves what a superb writer she is. It is obvious why this book not only won a contest to get published but also the Agatha Award for best first novel. It's been the start of a great career.

And once you start, you'll want to read the rest of the Meg Langslow Mysteries in order.

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