Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Book Review: The Hen of the Baskervilles by Donna Andrews (Meg Langslow #15)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great mystery and fun characters
Cons: Occasionally too much about the heritage breeds
The Bottom Line:
Visit the Un-fair
And tour all the exhibits
Watch for dead bodies

Un-Fair Murder

Living in California, I had not heard about the troubles that the Virginia State Fair had a year or two back.  But Donna Andrews was able to make them work for her when she created the plot of The Hen of the Baskervilles, the latest in her long running Meg Langslow series.

Meg is a blacksmith, although that very rarely plays a role in the plot of the story.  Instead, she finds herself involves in large, crazy groups with fanatics of one short of another.  In this book, she's gotten roped into helping with the Un-fair that her town of Caerphilly is hosting as the assistant director.  It’s got all the animals and exhibits you’d expect at a fair, including some rare ones.  These “heritage” breeds are specialties that farmers are hoping begin to make a come back.

But before the fair even opens, a series of thefts occurs, including some of the heritage hens that are supposed to be on display and in one of the competitions.  Then one of the wineries starts making waves in the Winery Pavilion.  Meg has her hands full trying to keep peace when a murder happens.  How is it all tied together?

I noticed something as I was reading through this book.  The family members who used to be such a huge part of these books are becoming more supporting characters.  They still make appearances and help things along, but they aren't the driving force behind the comedy.  In fact, some of the Shiffleys, a local extended family almost as big as Meg's, have a much larger role with every book.  Not that I'm complaining.  All the characters, returning or new, are great and full of life.  They helped draw me into the story.

But I have to give a shout out to Jamie and Josh, Meg's twin toddlers.  They absolutely stole the show in every scene they were in.  I loved them!

The plot was strong, too.  There were several good suspects, and I kept going back and forth over who I thought did it.  The ending was absolutely logical and very well executed.

While there were certainly some scenes that had me chuckling, this wasn't the funniest book in the series.  Then again, the ones I thought were funniest were ones that other people didn't like, so what do I know.  Even if I wasn't laughing, I found every page enjoyable reading.

Every so often, things slow down for a page or two so we can learn a bit more about these heritage breeds.  It felt a little bit like a passion of Donna's that she wanted to share with us.  Having said that, the story never truly lagged for long, and it made me curious enough to head to a fair and see some of these breeds in person.

Weaknesses aside, I really enjoyed The Hen of the Baskervilles.  It is always a delight to find Meg back in action, and any fan of the series will be thrilled with her latest case.

Not yet a fan?  Here's your guide to the Meg Langslow Mysteries in order.

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