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Duck the Halls: A Meg Langslow Mystery by Donna Andrews
Cover Artist: Maggie Parr
Review by Paul Haggerty
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250028778
Date: 22 October 2013 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Something stinks in Caerphilly, Virginia. Someone is targeting the churches of town for mischief. There are skunks, snakes, and ducks, oh my. At first the pranks are nasty (especially the skunks in the choir loft), but not physically harmful ... well, nothing that a bathtub of tomato juice won't fix. Being a week before Christmas, the town comes together to help out, and Meg Langslow is called upon to do her scheduling magic. But then a fire is the next big step up, as is the body that comes with it. Now Meg is caught up in lethal mystery, but still needs to keep all the holiday events on schedule, as well as still provide a magical Christmas for her husband and two young boys.

In the middle of the night, Meg and Michael are awoken when Michael (a newly minted volunteer fireman) is summoned to the New Life Baptist Church. Meg follows along behind and, fortunately, no fire is actually present. Instead, the choir loft is now home to a very large cage, full of very unhappy skunks. Skunks which have done what skunks do when they are unhappy, and they've done it to the entire choir loft and the church caretaker. Fortunately, the damage can be fixed, and Mr. Dandridge wasn't seriously hurt. But now the pre-Christmas concert put on by the Baptists is at risk, unless someone can find a new place to host it.

Fortunately, Meg's mother is a force of nature, one that is friends with pretty much everyone in town. And before Meg knows it, her mother has made arrangements to have the concert held at Trinity Episcopal. Of course that means that other events need to be moved around as well. Nothing that Meg can't handle of course, and she's given a temporary office in Trinity in order to work. While this helps with put her at the center of Christmas related events in Caerphilly, it also puts her at the center of further Christmas mischief, including a snake (kidnapped from the zoo) appearing in Trinity itself, and a large flock of ducks at St. Bybligs Catholic Church. And while all these pranks mean more and more work for Meg, shifting events around from place to place, trying to keep ahead of the problems, its a fire, set in the basement, which kills one Trinity's irascible employees, that brings everything to a head.

Meg learned long ago to leave the detecting up to the police, but that doesn't mean she can't keep her eyes and ears open and let the police know what she sees and hears. Unfortunately, sometimes the bad guys are keeping an eye out for those that might be listening.

Duck the Halls is a typical Meg Langslow mystery. By that I mean that Donna Andrews starts with a large cast of continuing characters, then introduces several brand new, and unique characters, from the beloved new rector of Trinity Episcopal to the hated and despised choir director of New Life Baptist. Then she presents a mystery, filled with these characters and layered with misdirection and humor.

Always enjoyable and much recommended.

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