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by Donna Andrews
Thomas Dunne Books, February 2004
293 pages
ISBN: 0312277326

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In the fifth Meg Langslow mystery, our heroine is selling swords at a Porfiria, Queen of the Jungle convention, dodging parrots and tigers and fans (oh my)! Everyone who is anyone connected to the series has been collected under one roof, including Meg's boyfriend and would-be fiance Michael, who plays a recurring character on the show.

The main guest of honor is the actress who plays Porfiria, known better to those behind the scenes as The QB. Theoretically it stands for Queen Bee; in reality it stands for a well-earned Queen Bitch. The QB spends her time trying to preserve her youth by pickling it in alcohol, abusing her fans, and alternately locking up reluctant co-stars in bad contracts or firing them on a whim. As sole owner of the intellectual property that the show is based on, she has complete control and revels in it. Naturally, someone murders her.

The detective assigned to the case is soon overwhelmed with the number of enemies the QB had collected and the general insanity of the setting. In addition to disgruntled actors and overenthusiastic fans, the hotel is also literally crawling with monkeys and parrots. They, along with a tiger, had been imported to provide part of the jungle decorations, but someone set them free to enjoy the convention as fellow participants. The parrots are particularly having fun, learning how to mimic all sorts of new sounds. Cell phones. Porfiria out-takes. Monty Python routines. QB's final words.

Meg is the one who found the QB's body, who heard the parrot, and who saw the clue clutched in the corpse's hand. Convinced that the detective isn't paying enough attention to all of these, she and her oddball family embark on the quest that delves into motives from the present and the past.

It's possible to enjoy this book without having read the rest of the series (and I can say this with confidence, because I haven't). It's particularly possible to enjoy this book if you are familiar with science fiction conventions; Andrews skewers most of the fan culture stereotypes and oddities with deadly accuracy but without cruelty.

The puzzle part of the mystery is fairly straightforward and has a few holes, but they are cloaked under layers of very amusing details, from the dog who falls in love with the tiger through the names of everything Porfirian (all medical terms for obscure diseases). All in all, WE'LL ALWAYS HAVE PARROTS is a fun way of spending a rainy afternoon, and a good introduction to the off-beat life of Meg and Michael.

Reviewed by Linnea Dodson, May 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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