I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.\Lark! The Herald Angels Sing by Donna Andrews
Series: Meg Langslow #24
Genres: Cozy, Amateur Sleuth, Mystery
Published by Minotaur Books on October 16, 2018
Source: the library
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Also in this series: The Hen of the Baskervilles, Duck the Halls
Also by this author: The Hen of the Baskervilles, Duck the Halls, The Nightingale Before Christmas, Die Like an Eagle, Gone Gull, How the Finch Stole Christmas!, Toucan Keep a Secret, The Falcon Always Wings Twice
Twenty-fourth in the Meg Langslow cozy (and funny) amateur sleuth mystery series set in Caerphilly, Virginia, a.k.a., Yorktown, and revolving around Meg and her family and friends.
I want to visit Caerphilly at Christmas! It sounds as though they go all out to create a gorgeous setting for the townsfolk AND the tourists. I also like Michael’s idea of hiring his drama students to provide the “street theater”. As for the Waterstons’ house. I want that too. I mean, two-story high bookcases in a former ballroom-turned-library? Hullo…!
As for the story, it’s all goodwill and peace on earth, Meg-style. Aiding and abetting a criminal, planning a prison escape, singing Christmas carols to the enemy. It’s always a cozy tale in Caerphilly with family staying and helping out, townspeople stepping up and being supportive. It’s the kind of town anyone would want to live in.
Fortunately, Meg is always at the center of things, so it makes sense that Andrews uses first person protagonist point-of-view, so we know everything Meg does. It appears that everyone in Caerphilly also knows Meg, and you will. Crack. Up. As “everyone” in town shows up at Meg’s place.
It’s an army Meg’s assembling that includes the Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Catholic, Jewish, and Presbyterian women, the ladies participating in the retreat, and what seems to be every other woman in Caerphilly!
And, Andrews, thanks for reducing the number of times “my notebook-that-tells-me-when-to-breath” is mentioned.
A suspected murderer has escaped from Clay County, and Sheriff Dingle is demanding constant updates from Chief Burke…who’s more concerned with finding the alleged fugitive and getting him into the hands of any county but Clay.
As for the mysterious baby taking the place of Baby Jesus? It’s a miracle, and Meg is hoping she’ll take Baby Noah’s place.
Nor do the menfolk want to be left out of the rescuing, as tracking/rescue teams invade the county. Thank goodness their women know what to do!
Meg Langslow is a blacksmith married to Professor Michael Waterston who teaches drama at Caerphilly College. They have eleven-year-old twins, Josh and Jamie, who are protected by the Small Evil One, Spike, the dog who hates everyone.
Rob is Meg’s brother who started up a successful computer company, Mutant Wizards, with a focus on gaming and security. Tinkerbell is Rob’s Irish wolfhound. He and Rose Noir, a cousin and the town’s natural food and wellness expert, live with Meg and family in their sprawling farmhouse. Delaney McKenna is Rob’s jealous girlfriend. Dad, Dr James Langslow, loves all things crime and is the local medical examiner, who donates his time to the shelter, and is the town Santa. Mother has high standards and is excellent at organizing and decorating anything. Wait’ll you read what she did for the shelter’s decorations, lol! Thurston and Bruce-Partington are Mother and Dad’s cats.
Dr Monty Blake is the Langslows’ grandfather who owns the Caerphilly Zoo and is passionate about all things animal — a zoologist and environmentalist with his J Montgomery Blake Foundation. Blake’s Brigade are volunteers Grandfather calls on when he needs help with an animal welfare project. Great-grandma Cordelia (Dr Langslow’s mother) had played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League and is now the batting coach for the Caerphilly Eagles Little League team. Caroline Willner runs the Willner Wildlife Sanctuary and seems to be dating Dr Blake.
The Nativity play
Baby Jesus will, hopefully, not be played by the Reverend Robyn Smith’s four-month-old Noah. The reverend is the rector for Trinity Episcopal. Matt is Robyn’s husband. Kirstie will play the Virgin Mary. Josh and Elijah are shepherds, but Elijah may be replaced by Kyle. Colin is one of the three kings. Jamie plays the Angel Gabriel.
The note says her name is Lark.
Meg and Amber (a very skilled Jill-of-all-trades) and Brianna Shiffley (she’s a licensed electrician) are the only ones in town allowed to do repairs at the women’s shelter. (Brady Shiffley is Brianna’s brother who works at Dominion Energy and said to be careless with his keys, ahem.) Josephina Diaz arrived as a resident and has stayed on as cook, housekeeper, and den mother at the shelter. Dr Clarence Rutledge, the local vet, provides board for any of the residents’ pets. Mo Heedles, the police chief in Riverton, will hold down the fort at the emergency shelter. Young Lilly is very suspicious of Santa Claus.
Chief Henry Burke and his wife, Minerva, are raising their three grandchildren: Frank Jr, Calvin, and Adam, the youngest and Josh and Jamie’s best friend. Debbie Ann is the emergency dispatcher. Horace Hollingsworth is Meg’s cousin and the crime scene specialist. Burke’s deputies include Vern Shiffley, Caleb Shiffley, Wayne Shiffley, Aida Butler (her daughter, Kayla, fills in at the station on school holidays), and Crowder.
Randall Shiffley is the mayor, county manager, and unofficial head of the Shiffley clan. Fred Shiffley is the cousin who has taken over running the Shiffley construction company. Aunt Jane, er, I mean Judge Jane Shiffley helps out with those warrants. Meredith Flugleman is with Child Protective Services and dislikes children. Bertha Shiffley and Rabbi and Joyce Grossman are some of the fostercare volunteers. And then there’s Meg and Michael Waterston. Viola Wilson is the wife of New Life Baptist’s minister. Ginnie Shiffley drives for the Caerphilly school system.
Pemberly, Mrs Thistlewaite’s ginger tom, is missing. Again. Seth Early pastures his escapist sheep across from the Waterstons’ farm; Lad is his Border collie. Ekaterina Vorobyaninova is the assistant manager at the Caerphilly Inn and a friend of Meg’s. She has two Russian blues, Alexei and Tatiana. Oksana is her sister. She claims that their dad was a spy. Luigi owns the pizza place, and Muriel runs the diner. Osgood Shiffley runs the local service station and car repair shop. Taylor Shiffley joins the tracking team. Maudie Morton runs the funeral home.
Clay County is…
…a hateful place made up mostly of Dingles, Whickers, Plunkets, and Peebleses and wars with Caerphilly. A Dingle is the mayor, another is the sheriff, yet another is the judge, and another one is a reverend. The deputies include Brad Peebles and D Plunket. Ben Dingle has been spying in Caerphilly. Anse Dingle and Bo work for Cyrus “Cy” Whicker at Clay County Towing (and chop shop).
Mark Caverly is an accountant hired to straighten out the county’s books; he’s on the run from the law for the murder of Lucius Plunket. Mark’s wife, Janet, is also on the run with their baby, Andrea, and Sammy the Siamese cat. Rachel Driver Plunket is Lucius’ sister who works at Rocky’s Burger Barn. Grendel Plunket is a greedy pig and a cousin. Tyler Whicker and Urisha Peebles have a really stupid idea. And compound things by claiming Ellie Peebles is in there. The Clay Pigeon is a sleazy bar whose owner also operates the Clayville Shooting Range.
Richmond, Virginia, is…
…where Inman works in a federal office. Special Agent Durham doesn’t like vigilante tactics. Well, okay, maybe this one time…
Samantha is one of Rob’s ex-girlfriends, as is the cake-popper-outer, Relentless Stalker Desiree. Mrs Valerie Peters claims to have lost a baby. Paton is a guard at Mutant Wizards. Mona is part of Rose Noire’s retreat group, and she has a lot of experience with conflict de-escalation and resolution. Devon and Annika are a couple of Michael’s grad students who’ll have fun with the video equipment.
The Cover and Title
The cover is a shiny red bordered by tinsel and garland. A swooping, embossed gold banner takes up most of the cover ’cause that title (in a dark green) is long. One end of the banner is caught in a Santa-capp’d lark’s beak, his feet holding a long trumpet. At the very top is an info blurb in a pale yellow with the author’s name directly below it in an embossed silver. At the bottom left is the series information in silver.
The title is too cute, as Lark! The Herald Angels Sing out the baby’s name.