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by Donna Andrews
St. Martin's Minotaur, January 2003
320 pages
ISBN: 0312277318

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Be prepared to laugh until your sides hurt. Do not read sitting in a crowded room or you will be at risk of stares, gapes, and glares. Do not read in bed unless you want to keep your companion awake. This is a really funny book!

Meg Lanslow has agreed to help out brother Rob. He has finally marketed his computer game, Lawyers from Hell, and established a company to develop new versions and other games. Something is wrong in the company and Rob figures Meg can figure out what. Because she has bashed her left hand trying to do her blacksmithing in much too small an area, she agrees to help out. This means manning the switchboard because no temp will stay longer than five minutes.

Perhaps the buzzard in the waiting room has something to do with the temps leaving. Or maybe the office practical joker, who is riding around on the self-guided mail cart pretending to be dead, has frightened one away. Then again perhaps it is the tenants with whom Mutant Wizards is sharing space, therapists who all have a different take on how to treat people, that is the problem. No matter. Meg is stuck. The murder of one of the employees and the police belief that Rob could be the murderer lead Meg to once again try to solve a crime.

Meg has matured since Murder with Peacocks. She still has trouble saying no to her family, but she can be very firm with them one she has agreed to help. She has all the techies scared of her. She tries to run the office with an iron hand, but things keep going wrong.

This is my kind of humor. It is not the slapstick, making fun of other people humor that we sometimes see. It is humor that grows out of character and situation. Late in the novel, Andrews considers why anyone would write a humorous story about a horrible crime like murder. ďAnd if I laugh at any mortal thing, 'Tis that I may not weep (Byron)." She sees the world in all of its idiosyncrasies, its oddities, its peculiarities and she helps us accept this world by laughing with her and these eccentricities. Murder is not funny but people are and they behave quite oddly in unsettling situations.

In these pages you will meet as engaging a collection of bizarre, unusual, and curious characters as you will hope to find anywhere. After all, who is stranger than computer techies unless it be therapists? You will recognize traits of all these characters and you will laugh at how strange they are and how Meg, maybe the only normal person about, deals with them. Megís father is there, practicing to be a detective. Her mother is mailing her all kinds of suggestions about furnishing the tiny apartment Meg and Michael have rented. Michael is in California making money for a brief time as an actor, but they speak daily on the phone.

There is a pretty effective plot in addition to the characters and the humor. There are enough red herrings to confuse anyone and I had no clue about the murderer until the denouement. Speaking of which, Andrews has done a switch on the Agatha Christie/ Rex Stout practice of bringing all the suspects together in the same room to expound on the murderer. Itís a transposition I found quite amusing.

This is the perfect book to relax and enjoy at any time, but perhaps especially when you need a really good laugh at the way the world works. It doesnít make fun or mock, but it does direct our attention to the often ridiculous side of life.

Reviewed by Sally A. Fellows, November 2002

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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