Murder with Puffins
Donna Andrews - Meg Langslow

I love mystery stories in general and when I spotted this book containing puffins - one of my favorite birds - I grabbed it immediately. However, it was apparent within a page or two that this was a sequel, and that I'd be quite lost if I didn't track down the first one to read before this. After a few months of watching my local bookstores for it and never seeing it, I finally just ordered Murder with Peacocks from Amazon so that I could get the book off my dresser and into my life!

Having read Peacocks and then Puffins pretty much back to back, I have to say that I appreciate greatly how Meg has "matured" between the two books. The Puffins story picks up pretty much exactly where Peacocks left off - Meg is still newly in love with Mike, and the big hullabalo over her "solving" of multiple murders has her hometown in a swirl. She spontaneously decides to run off with Mike to a relative's cottage on a quiet island in Maine for some time alone. Of course, in a plot twist that only a cozy mystery can try to pretend is plausible, her entire family has the same spontaneous idea - including bringing Mike's annoying dog - and now the cottage is chock-full of eclectic personalities. Oh yes, and there's a hurricane this exact weekend, too.

You have to just grin and bear it when these sorts of things happen. There's going to be MANY more coincidences springing up. It just happens to be the weekend that the local rich guy has brought in a buyer for his plan to turn the entire island into a resort. A local escaped prisoner just happens to be lurking around. You have to assume that all of these people live in some sort of alternative reality where coincidences are standard and always work to further the plot along.

My complaint with Meg in the first book is that she had been a perpetual doormat, and it was depressing if not frustrating to read about her just giving in to everyone. She has suddenly grown a backbone in this book, which is great. She finally stands up for herself and for her family. However, Mike seems to have suddenly lost HIS personality! Now he's like an anemic Dr. Watson, just tagging along gamely whereever Meg goes. I'm all for partners who can roll with the flow - but they should still have some intelligence and spark.

The book loves to make fun of birders as being boring and dumb, which is odd since you would think a book about puffins would appeal to birders. It's why I got the book :) I've been out to Machias Seal Island to see puffins, and I could relate easily to the landscapes and environments she described. I'm not quite sure why she was deliberately trying to ostracize one of her target audiences. It's one thing to gently poke fun at stereotypes, but she was rather heavy handed and repetitive here. In the first book she was targetting brides-to-be, but that portrayal was more cute than nasty.

Really, the overreaching problem here is that numerous characters and situations just didn't make sense. Some individuals were very one dimensional. The actions of the police and other characters in charge weren't logical in several situations. I was grateful that there weren't 80-trillion murders like in Book 1, but even so the reasons that things happened and how things wrap up are a bit tenuous.

It almost seems that the author got complaints about the first book - so she fixed up those issues but then in the process introduced some new issues. I really did enjoy reading both books in general, and have high hopes that future books will "settle down" and have well rounded characters with plausible plot lines that are fun.

Donna Andrews - Meg Langslow

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