Thursday, December 18, 2014

Book Review: The Nightingale Before Christmas by Donna Andrews (Meg Langslow #18)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Josh and Jamie, other fun characters and fun mystery
Cons: One thread from previous book only brought up in passing
The Bottom Line:
Decorating home
With an unexpected corpse
Complicates Christmas

All Through the Show House, a Murderer was Stirring

This year, I set out to read four Christmas themed mysteries in December.  The Nightingale Before Christmas wound up being the last on the list, and it was a great one to end with.  As always with this series, there was lots of fun to be had on our way to solving a murder.

If you’ve missed the Meg Langslow series, you are really missing out.  Meg and her extended family star in this humorous series that finds her involved in all kinds of wacky groups.  Often, her organizational skills have put her in charge of these groups.  And she just can’t help snooping for clues when a dead body or two show up along the way.

Once again, Meg has found herself roped into a project at Christmas time.  This year, she’s coordinating a decorator show house that will help raise money via ticket sales for local charities once it opens on Christmas Eve.  Also, it will hopefully help the decorators get new clients.  Each decorator is responsible for a room or two, so the styles are as different as their various personalities.

As you might expect, that many strong personalities in one house is cause for conflict.  However, the worst offender is Clay Spottiswood, a man who seems to go out of his way to set others back in their efforts to finish their rooms by the deadline.  Going back late to lock up one night, Meg finds the man shot to death in the master bedroom he was decorating.  Is one of the decorators a murderer?  Or has something from Clay’s past caused him to be murdered?

Now I will admit that the show house is not the strongest Christmas element I’ve seen.  Honestly, this set up could have been done in any other season.  The decorators are adding Christmas touches to their rooms, but that’s about all as far as the main plot goes.  However, there are several scenes set around traditions we know about from the previous Christmas books in the series as well as Meg and her plans for the holiday.  Trust me, you’ll definitely get in the Christmas spirit while reading this book.

In fact, one of my favorite sub-plots, involved Meg’s twins, Josh and Jamie, trying to figure out what to get their mother for Christmas.  Their suggestions are pretty funny.  Frankly, they stole every scene they were in and made me laugh out loud on a few occasions.  It might help that my own niece is the same age, so I could recognize the behavior.  Still, they are an absolute delight.

Not that the other characters weren’t up to their usual standards.  I always enjoy getting to spend time with the regulars, and they were delightful as always here.  My only disappointment in the character department involved a thread from the previous book in the series I hoped to see followed up on here.  It was mentioned in passing, so hopefully we’ll get my wish with the next book.  The cast of decorators (aka the suspects) were fairly good.  I had a hard time keeping a few of them straight, but we quickly got a reminder of who was whom when they walked on stage, so it never hampered my enjoyment of the story at all. 

Speaking of the story, I was sure I had the entire thing figured out with 100 pages to go.  I was wrong.  I’m not going to say any more on that subject so I don’t give anything else away.  The pacing was perfect with clues and events happening on a steady basis.  I’m not in to decorating at all.  (What can I say, I’m a guy.)  However, we never got so lost in that world that I was bored.

Even if you read this book during the rest of the year, you’ll find yourself enjoying The Nightingale Before Christmas.  This is a delightful mystery anyone looking for a fun book will enjoy.

And if you want to catch Meg's earlier adventures, here are the Meg Langslow Mysteries in order.


  1. I'm definitely missing out! I've read one of these and really enjoyed it but got caught up in other books and never made it back. I'm looking forward to reading more of this series and this book in particular!

    1. So many series, so little time. I've got a few series I started, loved, and then never made it back to finish.

      But read this one. Really.