Book Review: Toucan Keep a Secret by Donna Andrews

Posted August 27, 2018 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 4 Comments

Book Review:  Toucan Keep a Secret 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.

Toucan Keep a Secret by Donna Andrews
Series: Meg Langslow #23
Genres: Cozy, Mystery
Published by Minotaur Books on August 7, 2018
Pages: 320
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

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!, Lark! The Herald Angels Sing, The Falcon Always Wings Twice, The Gift of the Magpie

Twenty-third in the Meg Langslow cozy mystery series set in Caerphilly, Virginia, (Yorktown) and revolving around a blacksmith-cum-mom and her family.

My Take

I absolutely adore Andrews’ Meg Langslow warm and cozy series for the small town feel and all the compassion that abounds throughout the town. Sure ya got yer curmudgeons and bad guys…what’s a story without ’em? But they take care of each other and figure out ways to help so it doesn’t hurt. I just love, love, love it!

It’s first person protagonist point-of-view from Meg’s perspective, and since she’s such a nosey parker and involved in everything with a brain, we know everything she knows and experiences. And it amazes me how busy this little town is!

Between Robyn’s pregnancy and the multiple projects underway at their home, Ragnar’s charity, past events that continue to involve Trinity Episcopal, and force Meg to hunt down survivors, some of whom aren’t interested in being found…yep, a busy little place indeed.

Andrews has kept the fun going even though those awful Pruitts are finally gone, and poor Chief Burke has yet another Pruitt headache uncovered by this desecration of the columbarium. This ought’a be fun!

I do like Dr Womble, even if he does wander off-topic a lot. Any man who will turn a barn into a library has my vote, *grin* And the story is filled with his good deeds. A very decent man. I like his friend, too, lol. That Archie now. He and his mother. I keep fantasizing about a a mean, stupid bomb. One that takes out mean and stupid people. Hmmm…

Oh, all right, I’ll be good. It is a good ending with quite a few surprises, mostly good ones. And then there’s that sneaky little twist at the very end…snicker…

The Story

It’s been thirty years since the infamous Van der Lynden jewel heist, and it’s all coming back with the desecration of the columbarium and that great ruby ring rolling around the dead body.

A past history that opens up quite a few events that made no sense at the time…as nonsensical as that killer who sees toucan and thinks parrot

Seems hyenas are good security…

The Characters

Meg Langslow does artful blacksmithing and is a special assistant to the mayor. Primarily because Meg gets things done and has a huge clan to call upon. She’s married to Professor Michael Waterston who teaches drama at Caerphilly College and is an assistant coach with their sons’ Little League team. They have twin sons, Josh and Jamie, who are close friends with Adam Burke with Mason (Jan is his mom) making up the fourth of the Four Horsemen. The Twinmobile is that necessary van for all moms of active kids. Spike is the Small Evil One who only likes the twins.

Dr Langslow is Meg’s crime-fancying dad, James, who is also the local medical examiner. Mother is quite intimidating when she needs to be, a real go-getter with tons of practical compassion. Rob is Meg’s brother who owns a computer game company and lives with the Waterstons along with Rose Noire, their vegetarian and organic cousin, who will love the challenge. Tinkerbell is Rob’s Irish wolfhound. Cordelia is the Langslow’s long-lost (and found) grandmother who had once played with the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Grandfather, a.k.a., “Great“, is a biologist, bird fancier, and owns the Caerphilly Zoo.

Trinity Episcopal Church is…
…where Meg and family attends on Sundays. And every other day of the week it seems, lol. The Reverend Robyn Smith is on bed rest for the last three months of her pregnancy. Matt is her artistic husband. Admiral Nimitz is the three-year-old toco toucan Robyn is fostering while his owner, Larry Baker, is on active duty on the USS Harry Truman. The Ladies of St Clotilda are the chief organizers for good works in the church. The church will need to reinstitute the Key Holders, an official volunteer post. Sally Penworthy is rather flighty, so it’s her fault.

Viola Wilson is the wife of Reverend Wilson at New Life Baptist. Father Dr Lyndon Shakespeare is a friend of Womble’s and one of the supply priests (the ecclesiastical equivalent of a substitute teacher).

Junius Hagley is one of two Muttering Misogynists; Mr Sedlak is the other, blithering, one*. His wife, Dolores, was in one of the crypts along with James Asmundsen Washington, P. Jefferson Blair, Lacey Shiffley (a renegade Shiffley!), Beatrice Helen Falkenhausen van der Lynden, and Known Only to God.

Dr Rufus Womble is Robyn’s predecessor, a pack rat, and quite the sneak. Seems he needed volunteers to keep him on track as he got too easily lost in a book. His wife, Emma Womble, sounds an absolute sweetheart. Wyclif and Wilberforce are their gray tabbies. The Reverend George Burwell Nelson Page, a.k.a., Gothic George, was the rector when the crypt was built.

Charles Hagley is Junius’ son, a lawyer who lives in Richmond.

Mrs. Parker Blair is PJ’s aunt. Professor James Donovan is part of the law school faculty and can make decisions about Blair’s desecration. Jeannie is the law faculty’s secretary.

Archibald Falkenhuaser van der Lynden is Beatrice’s ne’er do well son, who seems to spend most of his life at Inchness, a rehab facility. J. Elliott Vanderbilt of Wellington Blodgett handles his affairs. Beatrice’s husband, Archie Sr, was thought to have been a financial wizard. William Fitzgerald “Fitz” Marshall and Paul Blair were the two friends who volunteered. Belinda Pruitt and Mr Jackson are the only guests still alive from the party. Mrs Winkleson bought the estate and named it Raven Hill, and then Ragnar bought it…

…Ragnarsheim is…
…the sprawling “farm” of Ragnar Ragarsen, a.k.a., that Viking musician, a heavy-metal drummer who retired. Despite his penchant for all things gothic, he holds open house for friends who are down on their luck. Fred is a bass player and former band mate. Hosmer is alphabetizing the books in Ragnar’s library. Buddy is doing a great job of keeping the gazebo clean…those geese, you know. Ragnar’s black swans have the same hair trigger temper as mute swans.

Roddy is one of Michael’s star pupils; Evan needs way too much help getting into character. Jaren is another student helping with the re-enactment.

Bart Hempel, the ringleader of the real robbers, is serving thirty-to-life. Aaron Hempel was Bart’s younger brother.

Jim Washington had been the Van der Lyndens’ gardener, gopher…and scapegoat, but managed to get a job with Randall’s dad — to piss off the Pruitts, lol. He was Junius’ brother-in-law, married to Mary, Dolores’ sister.

Lacey Shiffley was quite the rebel when she eloped with Anse Whicker from Clay County. Ida and Ferd Shiffley were her parents and quite keen for her to go to college.

Caerphilly PD
Chief Henry Burke retired from the Baltimore PD and is in charge in Caerphilly (he attends New Life Baptist where his wife, Minerva, is the choir director), as well as resigned to Meg barging in. He and his wife are raising their orphaned grandsons: Frank, Jr; Calvin; and, Adam.

Horace Hollingsworth is a deputy and a crime scene specialist. As well as one of Meg’s cousins. Debbie Ann is the dispatcher. Other deputies include Aida Butler (one of Meg’s friends) and Vern Shiffley.

The sprawling Shiffley clan
Randall Shiffley is the de facto head of the clan. He’s in construction and is also the mayor and county manager. Judge Jane Shiffley can be quite stern and is Lacey’s next-of-kin. Cal is Judge Jane’s bailiff and dating a Shiffley. Osgood Shiffley is a good mechanic. Wilma Shiffley used to clean for the Hagleys for years.

Caerphilly Zoo is…
…owned by “Great”, Manoj is the heavy aviary keeper. Axel is his assistant.

Dr Clarence Rutledge is the town veterinarian. Fred Singer is the owner, editor, and chief bottle-washer of the Clarion, the local paper. His grandson plays on a rival Little League team and is a great catcher. Maudie Morton runs the local funeral home where Hagley, Washington, and Reggie Thistlethwaite had been some of Maudie’s Gentlemen. Lettice Forsythe runs an antiques shop.

The Eagles are…
…Josh and Jason’s Little League team coached by Tory Davis. The team’s pitchers are Manuel Espionza and Danny Takahashi.

* The Philadelphia Eleven were those horrible women who were ordained back in 1974.

The Cover and Title

The cover uses a diamond gradient with a pale turquoise radiating up and down into a much deeper turquoise. Centered in the lightest area are three multicolored toucans — orange, black, red, white, yellow, greens, and blues — lined up along a branch, chatting to each other. A bit of info blurb is at the top in a lime green with the author’s name immediately below it in an embossed white. Just below the third toucan’s tail is the series information in white. Additional whimsy shows up in the first word of the embossed white title curving up on each end with the rest of the title below it in a straight line.

The title is right, Toucan Keep a Secret. If one of them is dead.

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