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by Donna Andrews
Minotaur, October 2021
312 pages
ISBN: 1250760186

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Meg Langslow is quietly relaxing in her kitchen, resting her sprained ankle, before starting what she knows will be a very busy day. Then the wombats get loose in the basement. Meg was not aware that there were wombats in the basement. Her brother Rob, just back from Florida, attempts to explain: Grandfather, aka Dr. J. Montgomery Blake, wants to study their biofluorescence, and which variables affect it. Grandfather is already in hot water with Meg for installing Roderick Castlemayne, a notoriously irascible and difficult to work with wildlife artist, in their library so he can continue working on the bird paintings for an upcoming book. Hence the three northern mockingbirds (and potentially a dozen blue jays) loose in the house, requiring head gear for all humans so nobody gets Mimus polyglottos poop on their pate.

Meg is understandably and totally over having Roderick at her house; admirers and haters, including an ex-wife or two, keep showing up at her door because of him. Not all of them are polite. There is also the basically non-stop stream of friends and relatives coming to move in for the holidays, drop things off for various and sundry celebrations, the local reporter wanting a story about the artist, and the like. Brother Rob and his fiancée want to get married in the middle of the annual New Year's Eve party, which will NOT sit well with the mothers. Delaney's mother Holly McKenna shows up to connive with Rob's mother. There's a blizzard. In the middle of all of this chaos, and there's more to be had, Roderick Castlemayne is killed in the library. There is a surfeit of suspects; Meg desperately tries to sort it all out before even more disasters strike.

While it is not vital that one read this series in order (this being the 33rd entry), one must say that it helps in terms of keeping track of characters and relationships. Meg meets her husband in the first book, and their twins are now around fifteen. A lot has happened.

Andrews is noted for her humor, some of which can be quite subtle. There are laugh-out-loud moments in JAYS, and moments when one just grins to oneself and keeps reading. The plot is nothing out of the ordinary; it is the writing that keeps one interested, not the solving of the crime. Little is made in this book of Meg's skills as a blacksmith and designer of ornamental features; there are others in the series where this is far more important. Donna Andrews fans will not be disappointed in this book, and it's not a bad introduction to the series for people who enjoy a mystery with minimal violence and lots of fun.

§ I have been reading and reviewing mystery fiction for over a quarter of a century and read broadly within just about all genres and sub-genres. I live in Northern lower Michigan with my spousal unit, one large cat, and 2 fairly small dogs.

Reviewed by P.J. Coldren, October 2021

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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