Book Review: The Nightingale Before Christmas by Donna Andrews

Posted November 6, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 4 Comments

Book Review: The Nightingale Before Christmas 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 Nightingale Before Christmas Series: Meg Langslow #18
Genres: Mystery, Amateur Sleuth
Published by Minotaur Books on October 21, 2014
Pages: 304
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

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

The brilliantly funny and talented Donna Andrews delivers another winner in the acclaimed avian-themed series that mystery readers have come to love. Cozies make excellent stocking-stuffers, and The Nightingale Before Christmas is guaranteed to put the "ho ho hos" into the holidays for the legions of fans hungry for another Christmas book featuring Meg Langslow.

Donna has won many awards for this very popular series and continues to come up with new hilarious adventures for her endearing heroine. The novel is full of superb screwball comedy as well as Donna's trademark crisp plotting, not to mention bushels of holiday cheer — it wouldn't be the most wonderful time of the year without it.

Eighteenth in the Meg Langslow cozy amateur sleuth mystery series and revolving around Meg, mother of twins and blacksmith. The series is based on the town of Yorktown in Virginia.

My Take

A nice blend of family and bickering chil…, er, I mean, decorators. I suspect part of why I loved this was the decorating and Ivy’s fabulous artistry. I too absolutely adore the sound of Ivy’s murals on the foyer walls. I want them for myself. At the least, I want to see them…moan…

Who does Clay think he is? He’ll stoop to anything! When you think of his true talent and how he’s wasting it!?? That is, however, the only excuse I can find for why he should be living. There are no others.

“…her room looked more as if she’d found a sale on chintz remnants and handed them over to a crew of blind seamstresses.”

It is amazing how one can affect so many lives.

I like the characters and the townspeople. It’s a warm, caring, supportive group, an aspect of the town that really comes out with each festival or event that Caerphilly puts on. Yep, lol, every installment is an event or festival. It’s very Norman Rockwell-ish. In The Nightingale Before Christmas, it comes out in the blend Andrews puts on Meg’s family and various Christmas specials that occur in town, at the college, at the various churches, and in the choral groups. I love how “Meg” can’t resist volunteering or sleuthing while being a mom and wife.

The fact that everyone works to include the kids is a major factor in my enjoyment. How much time Meg and Michael spend with their boys, how much they enjoy it, warms my heart.

One underlying subtheme that runs throughout is the boys’ problem deciding what Mommy would really like for a Christmas present. You’ll laugh as you recognize similarities between them and your own kids, lol. Ya gotta appreciate those smart cellphones these days. Being able to send instant pictures means a lot to the busy Meg. And Michael’s reaction to Josh’s acting out his dad’s performance was so very sweet. I love that they let the kids’ imaginations loose and yet rein them in so well.

Andrews has terrific insight into the decorators as well with their obsession for “it needs something” or spending five minutes properly plumping pillows. Heck, I grab an end and shake well, then throw it in place.

Dang, that Meg is good in a tight spot. Rainbows!

The Story

It’s Mother’s fault that none of the decorators have enough time to design their room in the big Christmas-themed decorator show house. And it’s Meg’s bargain that finds her pitching in with the organization.

She also finds herself surrounded by flamboyant personalities with massive egos clashing and feeling their professional reputations are at stake. Then the rooms start to be sabotaged, and an unfortunate designer turns up dead.

Can Meg catch the real killer before anyone else dies?

The Characters

Meg Langslow is a blacksmith who’s not getting much time to ply her art. Not when she has twin five-year-old boys with very individual personalities, Josh and Jamie; a husband, Michael Waterston, who works as a drama professor at the local college; and, a busy Mother who likes to involve everyone in everything. Her father, Dr. James Langslow, is the local medical examiner. Her brother, Rob, has his own computer company, Mutant Wizards, while cousin Rose Noire is succeeding with her custom organic herbal gift baskets small business. Both live with Meg and Michael in their many-roomed house. Michael’s mother is Dahlia “Grammy” Waterston, and she’ll be panicking over the holiday dinners. Caroline Willner is an old friend of Meg’s and her grandfather, Monty, who owns the local zoo. Cordelia is a paternal grandmother.

Randall Shiffley is the mayor and owns the Shiffley Construction Company that has donated a ton of labor and money in fixing the foreclosed house. Tomás Cruz and Mateo Torres were Clay’s workmen.

The Caerphilly Historical Society is…
…sponsoring a show house that is intended to help the town, the bank, and the decorators’ favorite charities. Turns out the Greens went bankrupt and had to abandon the house. The decorators include Eustace Goodwin in the kitchen and breakfast room; Ivy Vernier specializes in trompe l’oeil and has the foyer; Sarah Byrne with Byrne, Banks, and Bailey is doing Art Deco in the study; Martha Blaine applied too late and ended up with two bathrooms and the laundry room; Clay Spottiswood has the master suite; Violet Madsen is ruffling up one of the other bedrooms while Vermillion (Goth Girl) is doing another kind of ruffling in yet another; Our Lady of Chintz, a.k.a., Linda Dunn, is abusing the dining room; Mother has the living room; and, Alice Graham and Vicky are the Quilt Ladies working on the bonus room (their charity is Quilters for Good).

Caerphilly PD
Chief Henry Burke appreciates Meg’s help these days. Aida Butler, Sammy Wendell, and Vern Shiffley are deputies. Debbie Ann is the dispatcher. Cousin Horace is a deputy and the crime scene technician for the county.

The Reverend Robyn Smith is the Episcopalian pastor who helped found the Caerphilly Battered Women’s Shelter. Minerva Burke, Chief Burke’s wife, is the new leader of the New Life Baptist Choir. Kayla Butler, Aida’s daughter, is doing her first big solo. Daphne at Caerphilly Cleaners is a magician when it comes to getting stains out. Clarence Rutledge is a popular veterinarian. Muriel is adamant about keeping Muriel’s Diner a 1950s-style café. Emily Warren was a neighbor of Bob and Carol Green. They had two children. Stanley Denton is the only private investigator in Caerphilly.

The town turns out to help put the destruction right: Mrs. Tran runs a dress shop in Yorktown; Minerva with ladies from the New Life Baptist Church Ladies Auxiliary, the decorators, Rev. Robyn and the entire membership of Grace Episcopal’s Guild of St. Clotilda, a few ladies from the women’s shelter, drama students who’ve done set building, children and grandchildren to create ornaments, Tomás and Mateo, and Randall and his crew.

Kate Banks is Sarah’s partner in the business. Jessica is a reporter from Caerphilly College. Jen is the student holding down the college student records office. Boomer is one of Rob’s computer geeks. Gerald “Jerry” Granger is angry over his wife wanting a divorce. Meanwhile, Felicia Granger is looking for any excuse.

Mr. Timmerman with the Richmond Times-Dispatch wants to do a story on the Decorator Show House — and he’ll have to be headed off. Claiborne Smith is an artist who has a violent past.

The Cover and Title

The minty green cover with its delicate gold stars is too perfect with its lopsided Christmas tree and the many metaphors relating to the story, lol: the train circling the tree, the nightingales — jeweled and natural — decorating the tree, the broken nutcracker (ooh, ouch!), and the village under the tree *eyebrow waggle!*

The title is that transformation from perfect to better with help from The Nightingale Before Christmas.

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4 responses to “Book Review: The Nightingale Before Christmas by Donna Andrews

  1. It’s one of those cozy mysteries, Laura. From a completely different kind of family. The protagonist is a blacksmith and her husband is a drama professor. And Meg’s family is always involved in everything. Her dad has a thing for sticking his nose while her mother knows everyone—and where they should be seated.

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