How the Finch Stole Christmas!
by Donna Andrews
Edited by Pete Wolverton
Cover Artist: David Rotstein
Review by Gayle Surrette
Minotaur Books Hardcover / eBook ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250115454
Date: 24 October 2017
Caerphilly is gearing up for the Christmas holidays and it shows in all the decorations, special events, roving carol singers, and the influx of tourists to enjoy the ambiance and spend their money. But, this is not going to be a quiet family Christmas story for Meg and her family. No. Meg's going to be too busy to breath even with her hand notebook and organized To Do lists.
Caerphilly is gearing up for the Christmas holidays and it shows in all the decorations, special events, roving carol singers, and the influx of tourists to enjoy the ambiance and spend their money. But this is not going to be a quiet family Christmas story for Meg and her family. No. Meg's going to be too busy to breathe, even with her hand notebook and organized To Do lists.
Meg's husband, Michael, is directing the annual production of A Christmas Carol again, but this time he is not playing Scrooge. Instead, the college board decided to go big and hire an actor, Malcolm Haver, to play Scrooge, hoping his name recognition would bring in larger audiences. The problems started when they didn't allow Michael to look over the contract and several non-standard clauses were included. Now that Haver has arrived they learn that he's an alcoholic, misses rehearsals, and is hard to handle when he does show up. Everyone in the crew, cast, and many of the town's citizens are invested in making the play a success so they're working together to keep Haver sober.
Meanwhile, someone is smuggling Gouldian finches. Meg's grandfather is working with a Fish and Wildlife officer to keep the finches at his zoo, but he's running out of space because a big bust of smuggled birds is expected soon. So the theater lobby has taken some of the finches as part of a Twelve Days of Christmas display.
Meg's got her hands full trying to find out who is selling Haver his liquor. By chance, Meg spots Haver driving away from his usual area and follows. She follows as closely as she can and when he turns up a long driveway, she has to resort to going through to woods to keep him in sight without letting him spot her. She believes that she now knows who's buying and reselling liquor to him. Of course, that's when she hears animal noises from the barn and a quick peak has her convinced that animals are in dangerous conditions. So she takes photos and sends them to the chief of police.
This all sounds kind of straightforward, but nothing ever is in a Meg Langslow mystery. One thing leads to another while taking some interesting and unexpected twists and turns. There's even a John Doe body in a neighboring county that seems to be unrelated to the main events of the story – or is it? In fact, many of the minor plot elements that seem interesting background to distract our main characters, taking away their focus on the play and Haver, but turn out to be more important than reader might first suspect.
As usual, Andrews keeps readers so involved with the characters and their current disasters, in the twists, turns, and coincidental events which seem like normal distractions right up to the moment they're not. Some readers will probably guess some of what's going on, but even if you do the writing will keep you turning pages to see what’s going to happen next.
I can hardly wait to see what happens to Meg and her family next.