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by Donna Andrews
Minotaur Books, October 2014
304 pages
ISBN: 1250049571

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In order to prevent her mother from using her home for the designers' showcase house, Meg agrees to oversee the project whatever home the Historical Society decides to use. Although Meg lacks any sense of design, she is good at managing people and keeping projects on track. But some things even Meg can't manage. She can handle small problems like jealousy between some of the designers and smooth feathers when packages containing pieces for the various rooms vanish into thin air. However, when it appears the designer that gets along with no one is intentionally sabotaging the other designers' rooms, Meg is forced to call in the Historical Society Board. But before the board can take any action against the culprit, Meg finds him dead in his room in the showcase house.

After finishing THE NIGHTINGALE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, the eighteenth book in Andrews' Meg Langslaw series, I reached two conclusions.

First, the author is at her best when she is writing with some sort of Christmas celebration as part of the plot. Why? After thinking about this, I have decided that it is because the actions of the characters, though as madcap as always, seem more realistic than at other times of the year. The general confusion of the kids being shuffled around, Meg's mother in law calling nearly hourly with menu issues, the late nights of Christmas programs plus the glimpses of the twins at their pageant rehearsals is all something that most readers can relate to. Family life in December is chaotic and reading about someone else's family's chaos is both entertaining and comforting.

Secondly, the books seem to have more depth when the bird featured in the title is in the book more in spirit than as an actual character. In THE NIGHTINGALE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, the nightingale is in this case is part of a mural and the Chinese story of the Nightingale and the Emperor is told. For readers that want a little depth to their mysteries, there is some correlations between the Chinese folk story and the lives of the various decorators. It gives readers a bit to think about as they try to beat Meg at solving the case. I find that I enjoy the mayhem to be caused by the humans rather than a gaggle of geese, parrots or whatever.

While I have enjoyed all of the Meg Langslow books, I think the ones set at Christmas are the best. THE NIGHTINGALE BEFORE CHRISTMAS may well be the best of the best.

Caryn St.Clair resides in University City, Missouri and is a former elementary school media specialist, President of the Parks Commission and a docent at the St.Louis Zoo.

Reviewed by Caryn St Clair, November 2014

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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