Murder with Peacocks
Donna Andrews - Meg Langslow

I actually didn't mean to read this book - I love puffins and picked up Murder with Puffins at a bookstore. However, it was fairly obvious right from the start that this was a sequel and that I had to read the first book first. I tracked won Murder with Peacocks down and was impressed with the Agatha Award posted on the cover. I settled in for an evening read.

It's important to accept up front that this is meant to be a lighthearted read. The book doesn't hide this at all - it trumpets it from the start. Meg Langslow is a single ironworker who returns to her small hometown in order to be maid of honor - not to just one bride, but to three. The story is really all about those wedding preparations, the insane cast of family members, the owner of the dress shop (a gorgeous, literate hunk who everyone thinks is gay) and then a few deaths that are thrown in to annoy the wedding plans.

This is one of those books where I loved the details but cringed repeatedly at the plot itself. Meg is supposed to be a smart, educated, take-care-of-herself chick who embraces the un-girly craft of metalwork and living far from home. However, when it comes to actions, she's a doormat. She lets everyone in her life use her - her family, her friends, even strangers. The main reason she likes Michael is that he's nice to look at. The educated part is an afterthought. For some reason every other man around her is drawn to her like moths to a flame, and she judges many of them by their body shape. I just didn't find her character very rounded, or to be honest, someone I'd root for. People she's grown up with her entire life are dropping dead left and right and she doesn't care at all.

I also found the plot frustrating. It was clearly obvious from moment one that Michael was not gay - and these two spend TONS of time together, pretty much every waking moment. However, the only times he ever tries to tell her the truth, they're cut off. All the other times they're alone for hours on end, he doesn't say a word. The situation was silly enough to make you lose your involvement with the story. There are many other too-bizarre coincidences.

With so many people dropping dead left and right, the cops seem rather blithe about it all. The villagers seem to care more about themselves than about anyone who's gone. There's never any sense of *why* Meg's boyfriend is with his fiance, or *why* Meg's mom left her dad and chose this new guy. It's all contrived plot. There's an incredibly tiny amount of sleuthing that goes on, but most of it is chore running, and the occasional stumbling over clues. The ending scene in particular seems extremely kludgy.

I'm not saying I disliked the story - I read it through in a few hours, and there were numerous funny parts. It seems like it would have been *so* easy to structure it so that the constant "I'm about to tell her but some inane thing interrupts us" situations weren't happening - or that more depth was given to the characters so their actions rang true. Meg being such a shallow, spineless doormat was a continual frustration. It was a superb story crying to get out, but being bogged down by a lack of coherency. Even with the issues here, I'm actually really psyched to read the second book now. If this is what Donna Andrews did with her first try, I'm sure Puffins will solve many of these issues.

Donna Andrews - Meg Langslow

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