Book Review: The Gift of the Magpie by Donna Andrews

Posted August 20, 2021 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 4 Comments

Book Review: The Gift of the Magpie by Donna Andrews

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.

The Gift of the Magpie by Donna Andrews
Series: Meg Langslow #28
Genres: Mystery, Amateur Sleuth, Cozy
Published by Minotaur Books on October 13, 2020
Pages: 304
Format: eBook
Source: the library

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Also in this series: The Hen of the Baskervilles, Duck the Halls, Lark! The Herald Angels Sing

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, Lark! The Herald Angels Sing, The Falcon Always Wings Twice

Twenty-eighth in the Meg Langslow amateur sleuth cozy mystery series and revolving around Meg and her family. The story is set in Caerphilly, Virginia.

In 2021, The Gift of the Magpie was nominated for the Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel.

My Take

Part of what I love about the Meg Langslow series is how people-minded the whole family is. Meg and Mother spearhead most of the action, and they have a talent for pulling others in. Meg (and her family) do such a great job and are so compassionate towards others. Their Helping Hands do more than just help people with physical surroundings, but make a positive change in their lives. Just look at how much help they’re giving Harvey!

It’s so cute how stressed Josh and Jamie are about what to get people for Christmas. I do like Meg’s parenting methods.

I can understand why Harvey hangs on to so much; there’s so much history in his past. That’s not the only history, as Andrews includes some back history on the evil Pruitts and on the Shiffleys *snicker*.

A side issue is Grandfather’s missing magpies.

Andrews uses first person protagonist point-of-view from Meg’s perspective, so we’re always in the middle of the action.

It’s an action-packed story driven by the characters with a pretty obvious good and evil. Andrews sets a good pace with a bit of tension. It’s obvious who the good guys are and who the bad guys are, and yet Andrews teases us along.

It’s all about greed contrasting with all those Helping Hands.

The Story

Poor Harvey . . . his relatives and neighbors have reported him to the building inspector and Adult Protective Services. And Helping Hands have come to help him get them all off Harvey’s back.

The Characters

Meg Langslow is the woman around town, “volunteered” into a number of job slots, including part-time special assistant to the mayor and in charge of a number of projects, including the Helping Hands organization. Her husband, Professor Michael Waterston, teaches Drama at Caerphilly College. He’ll be performing his one-man show of A Christmas Carol. Josh and Jamie are their twin sons, who are protected by the Small Evil One, Spike, the dog who hates everyone. Skulker and Lurker are their barn cats. The Twinmobile is their minivan.

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 Noire, 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 girlfriend. Dad, Dr James Langslow, loves all things crime and is the local medical examiner. Mother has high standards and is excellent at organizing and decorating anything. Sebastian “Boomer” is Mother’s cat who passed away. Aunt Verity is unlikely to be happy that three percent of the ice in Antarctica is penguin urine. Kevin is Meg’s nephew and a cyber wizard. Cousin Eric thinks Meg should scan all her paperwork. Cousin Festus is the best lawyer in the family. Aunt Catriona is a little out of touch with what kids like. Seth is Meg and Michael’s neighbor.

Dr J. Montgomery “Monty” Blake is the Langslows’ grandfather who owns the Caerphilly Zoo and is passionate about all things animal. Frederick Entwhistle is in hot water with Grandfather. Manoj also works at the zoo. Caroline Willner runs the Willner Wildlife Sanctuary and seems to be dating Dr Blake. He and Grandmother Cordelia had James. Professor Pedersen is a retired zoology professor on CAWF’s board who may be moving back to Norway.

Helping Hands for the Holidays is . . .
. . . a wonderful idea in which the community comes together to help others. In this case, it started up after that fall’s hurricane when the Ladies’ Interfaith Council figured people needed help.

Robyn Smith is the rector at Trinity Episcopal and is one of the main instigators of Helping Hands for the Holidays. Deacon Abner Washington operates the Not Just Tacos Truck, which feeds the Helping Hands volunteers. Joyce Grossman is the wife of the rabbi of Temple Beth-El.

Randall Shiffley is the mayor of Caerphilly and runs a construction company. He also appears to understand practical marketing. He’s got a huge family with fingers in all sorts of pies. Eastman took over running his dad’s Shiffley Pest Control. Beau and Osgood usually drive the city snowplow. Today Beau’s teaching a class on repairing lamps. Judge Jane Shiffley is the matriarch of the Shiffley clan. Cousin Morford went gungho over genealogy.

Henry Burke is the chief of police; Minerva is his wife. Horace Hollingsworth is one of Meg’s cousins and a scene-of-crimes officer. Deputies include Vern Shiffley, Aida Butler (a friend of Meg’s; Kayla is Aida’s daughter and in the choir), Sammy Wendell‘s leg was broken in an altercation, Bethany is in California helping her mother, and George is the desk clerk out with appendicitis. Debbie Ann is the dispatcher.

Harvey Dunlop, a.k.a. Harvey the Hoarder, is beset by greedy relatives, his second cousins: Morris, Ernest, and Josephine. Wilberforce and Miriam Dunlop are probably Harvey’s great-grandparents. Aristede Sr and Jane were Harvey’s grandparents. Irma was Senior’s sister who married Buford Haverhill. Aristede Jr and Alice were Harvey’s parents. His ancestors owned the Farmers and Mechanics Bank that didn’t survive the Depression. Ham Brimley and Mrs Vera Blaine Gudgeon are Harvey’s annoyed neighbors. Furniture World is a vacant building Randall bought. Tabitha Fillmore is a chat buddy on A Perfectly Good Place. Shadow is the rescued kitten.

The annoyingly perky Meredith Flugleman works at Adult and Child Protective Services. Ms Ellie Draper is the head librarian. Dr Clarence Rutledge is the town veterinarian who started up a private nonprofit, Caerphilly Animal Welfare Foundation (CAWF). Ariel is the owner of the Caerphilly Beauty Salon helping give the dogs a salon day. The weekly Caerphilly Clarion is the town paper; the Caerphilly Historical Society newsletter is more like the Pruitt Mutual Appreciation Society. A good example of how awful the Pruitts are is exemplified by Mrs JR Pruitt. Muriel’s Diner does a good job with food. Homer Billingsley was a lawyer; now his granddaughter, Kate Warren, runs the office. Ekaterina Vorobyaninova is the general manager of the Caerphilly Inn, who’s participating in the dog giveaway. Professor Grimm likes Weimaraners.

Edwina Sprocket, a hoarder, had been the previous owner of the Langslow-Waterstons’ farmhouse. Jeb Wilson is one of Helping Hands’ clients. Ida Diamandis knows a lot of the town’s history and needs manure for her roses; she used to win sewing prizes at the state fair. Grace Dinwiddie has a quilt that needs finishing. Mason is one of Josh and Jamie’s friends.

The Pruitts were a family of carpetbaggers who settled in Caerphilly and plundered it. Wilhelmina Pruitt Blaine donated Historical Society newsletters to the library.

The Cover and Title

The cover has a cheery green gradated background. The author’s name is slightly jumbled in a pale yellow at the top. An info blurb in white is just below it. A round red ornament hangs from the A in the author’s last name and provides the series info. Below this, across the middle, is a string of Christmas tree lights (a red one is a blur falling) with dressed-up magpies wearing scarves, a turban and two crowns — I suspect they’re the three wisemen perched on the string. Immediately below the lights is the title in a pale yellow. Immediately below this, at the bottom of the cover, are three presents wrapped in cheerful wrapping paper and ribbon bows.

The title finds Meg getting lucky at the end with The Gift of the Magpie.

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