The Penguin Who Knew Too Much (A Meg Langslow Mystery)
by Donna Andrews
Review by Paul Haggerty
St. Martin's Minotaur Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312329426
Date: 07 August 2007 List Price $23.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /
Donna Andrews always fills her books with strange new characters and crusty old ones, so that you're never quite sure who's going to die, or who's going to be the killer. This time out we have the directors of two competing zoos, a world famous conservationist supposedly in town to save the Caerphilly Zoo, an enterprising local women with dreams of taking Zooperpoop brand fertilizer all the way to the national level and, as usual, any number of Shiffleys, Sprockets, and Meg's own family.
The Penguin Who Knew Too Much revolves around two of the local zoo's, specifically the Caerphilly Zoo, which is in danger of closing down. In an effort to save the zoo, Patrick Lanahan, the director, has farmed out most of the animals to locals. Locals who have had enough, and have taken Meg's father's offer to dump them all on his daughter. First the penguins, then the llamas, then hyenas, camels, acouchis, lemurs, wolves, and even a mountain lion named Lola.
It's not as if Meg hasn't enough on her mind. She and Michael are finally moving into their new home after what seems like a million years of renovations. Plus, knowing what disaster awaits them if their families get a chance to get involved in their wedding, the two of them have concocted the secret "PLAN", to move in over the memorial day weekend, throw a big party, and sneak off when no one is watching to elope. Now not only is moving in going incredibly slow, not only has the family arrived days early for the party, but a dead body has mysteriously appeared in her cellar. Add in that the Sprockets (family of the former owners of the farmhouse) have started digging up her yard searching for a long lost relation, animal rights activists are protesting outside her fence, and what seems to be every animal Noah carried on the Arc is now being dumped on her by animal lovers that have discovered that animals are easier to love from afar.
As usual, it's up to Meg to solve the mystery of the murder and unravel the dozens of plot threads that are interwoven throughout the characters of the story. Because just like in real life, each character in a Donna Andrews's novel has a life of their own, and they don't feel obliged to just tell you why they're acting so strange. Is it because they're trying to get a jump on the competition, or because they just shot someone with a crossbow and would rather not be hauled off to jail. Confront the first type and you'll get told to mind your own business. Confront the second ... well, there's always more room in the penguin pond.