Mystery Books for Sale

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by Donna Andrews
Thomas Dunne, April 2005
304 pages
ISBN: 0312329385

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Meg Langslow, a blacksmith who designs and makes decorative ironwork, and her long-time significant other, actor and professor Michael, have finally bought a house. They couldn't pass up the large Victorian with outbuildings as the price was right.

The only problem was that the owner had been a hoarder and part of the deal was they take the house 'as is' -- crammed with the late owner's possessions of furniture, books, knick-knacks, clothing, and whatever else one could think of. The outbuildings were also jammed with junk. They promised to sell the stuff and give 10 per cent of the proceeds to the family of the deceased.

Meg organizes a yard sale. It turns into a monster, with 17 Langslow relatives and 13 friends families opting to take part as vendors, not as buyers. It turns into two acres of assorted junk, with many of the vendors opting to stay at the house, which has been completely emptied of furniture.

The morning of the sale buyers of course try to get in early. A temporary fence has been built around the sale items with three dogs running around the perimeter. Spike, Michael's mother's vicious little dog, is enough to scare everyone away, but they also have two other dogs in with Spike. When people ring her doorbell at 5.30am, Meg pours ice water on their heads and tells them to leave.

Finally, they get the sale up and going. A local antiques dealer, noted for his sharp practices and high prices, Gordon McCoy, universally known as Gordon-You-Thief, has pushed himself to the front of the line. By the time Giles Rathbone, a professor at the college and a member of Michael's tenure committee arrives, Gordon-You-Thief has already been through the sale once and taunts Giles with a book he knew Rathbone would want.

Gordon, a quiet unassuming man, says nothing but eagerly takes Meg's advice on where to find books. A little while later, Meg sees Gordon-You-Thief coming out of the barn, which has been placed off-limits to protect several owlets who are living there.

Meg's father and brother go to the barn but find nothing. In order to stop the stashing of goods, they bring out a trunk they find there. When the trunk is opened, McCoy's body is found. When the police get there, they close down the sale, question everyone and arrest Giles. Meg must clear Giles so Michael can get tenure.

The book is full of gentle humor that pokes fun at all the strange people, the Langslow family and friends, and not so gentle fun at the grasping Sprockets. In MURDER WITH PEACOCKS, the first in the series, Meg was seriously bullied by her mother and I didn't care for her or for the book.

MURDER WITH PUFFINS, was a little better, but not good enough (in my estimation) to make this a do not miss series. I then skipped the next two, REVENGE OF THE WROUGHT-IRON FLAMINGOS and CROUCHING BUZZARD LEAPING LOON, but the title of the fifth, WE'LL ALWAYS HAVE PARROTS, got me. I read it and laughed out loud, which got me to going back and reading the two I had missed.

This one is not laugh out loud funny, but is filled with excellent scenes and insights. This series can be read out of order. But my advice is to pick up one and try it. If you are depressed, it might help cheer you up a bit.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, March 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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