Cockatiels at Seven (Meg Lanslow Mysteries)
by Donna Andrews
Review by Paul Haggerty
St. Martin's Minotaur Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312377151
Date: 08 July 2008 List Price $23.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Meg Langslow is a blacksmith by trade, and all the recent disruptions in her life have really cut into her time to practice it. Of course, some distractions, like getting married, certainly weigh in on the plus side. But when Karen, a friend that she hasn't seen in two years, pays her an unexpected visit, and begs her to watch her infant son "just for a little while", Meg has no choice by to drop everything and help out. Of course by the next morning, when there's still no sign of Karen, Meg is beginning to wonder just how long this "little while" is going to be. And when she goes to unpack little Timmy's bag and finds a snowsuit and mittens (it being the middle of summer), wonder begins to shy into panic.
Cockatiels at Seven is the ninth volume in the Meg Langslow mystery series. Just back from her honeymoon with Michael, Meg is looking forward to some normalcy in her life. Of course with her family being what they are, normal is probably always going to be a forlorn hope. She and Michael have been skirting the issue of having children of their own, but they somehow avoided directly addressing the matter. Now, with Timmy as surrogate child, Meg is going to get to have a short trial membership in the Mommy club.
Meanwhile, Meg's father and grandfather are clearly involved in some clandestine animal welfare operation (involving lots of snakes in terrariums hidden around her house and grounds), Michael is still tiptoeing around the college, praying that he'll get tenure, and her brother Rob is acting the way he always does when he's starting to date a woman he doesn't think the family will approve of. Of course Timmy is her number one concern, and so, now convinced that something is up with Karen, Meg packs Timmy up with his car seat, blanky, sippy cup, travel music, diaper bag, spare clothing, snack food, and cherished stuffed animal, and sets off to find her. But instead of Karen, Meg walks straight into smuggling, embezzling, murder, and poison ivy.
While the mysteries themselves are far from simple, the motif of a Meg Langslow mystery is fairly consistent. Meg wants to be left along, but someone she cares about is in trouble. And Meg, being the caring person she is, just has to pick at the problem until it unravels, usually putting her in some danger in the process. Meg isn't a professional sleuth, and her investigations revolve around her asking questions and sticking her nose into places it doesn't belong, until the bad guys notice her and take offense at her presumption to mettle with their business. At which point, the bad guys try to stop her, fail, and learn the error of their ways. Of course, just who are the bad guys, and what are they up to, are the questions of the day that Meg needs to get to the bottom of.
Unlike a lot of amateur detectives, Meg actually calls the police to report things, and turns over any evidence she stumbles across … well, usually. The mystery of the books centers on the fact that the police do not return the favor, leaving poor Meg to stumble around in the dark, getting in to mischief, and making the police's job that much harder. Of course, in my humble opinion, they deserve it for not being team players.