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Literature / Meg Langslow Mysteries

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The Meg Langslow Mysteries are a series of comedic mystery novels written by Donna Andrews. Similar to the Stephanie Plum novels, each features a murder mystery with a heavy dose of humor in the story. Each also features bird-related antics, with these taking a greater role in the plot of some of the novels in the series than others.

To date, the following titles in the series have been either been published or are scheduled:

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  • Murder with Peacocks
  • Murder with Puffins
  • Revenge of the Wrought Iron Flamingos
  • Crouching Buzzard, Leaping Loon
  • We'll Always Have Parrots
  • Owls Well That Ends Well
  • No Nest for the Wicket
  • The Penguin Who Knew Too Much
  • Cockatiels at Seven
  • Six Geese A-Slaying
  • Swan For The Money
  • Stork Raving Mad
  • The Real Macaw
  • Some Like It Hawk
  • The Hen of the Baskervilles
  • Duck the Halls
  • A Christmas Rescue (short story set between Duck the Halls and The Good, the Bad and the Emus; sometimes published in later edition of the latter, as it contains major spoilers for that book.)
  • The Good, the Bad and the Emus
  • A Christmas Trifle (short story available in the anthology Chesapeake Crimes: homicidal holidays)
  • The Nightingale Before Christmas
  • Lord of the Wings
  • Die Like an Eagle
  • Gone Gull
  • How The Finch Stole Christmas!
  • Toucan Keep a Secret
  • A Murder Hatched (Compilation containing Murder with Peacocks and Murder with Puffins)
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  • Night Shades (Short story available in an anthology)
  • Birthday Dinner (Short story available in an anthology)
  • Lark! The Herald Angels Sing
  • Terns of Endearment
  • Owl Be Home for Christmas
  • The Falcon Always Wings Twice
  • The Gift of the Magpie (October 2020)
  • Murder Most Fowl (August 2021)

The Meg Langslow Mysteries provide examples of the following:

  • An Ass-Kicking Christmas: There are multiple Christmas Episode books, with festive preparations seamlessly mixed with murder investigations.
  • Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop: This is the case for the entire Clay County Sheriff's Department.
  • The Bad Guys Are Cops: This happens in Lark! The Herald Angels Sing.
  • Beware of Vicious Dog: Spike, aka 'The Small Evil One' - Meg Langslow's dog that her mother-in-law forces on her after she turns out to be allergic to him. He turns out to be surprisingly gentle toward and protective of Meg's children once they're born, though. But only to them! Totally subverted with Rob's Irish setter, Tinkerbell, who once tried so desperately to make friends with a burglar that he dropped his gear and ran away!
  • Blackmail: The plot of Crouching Buzzard, Leaping Loon focuses on figuring out who killed Ted, an office practical joker who had secretly compiled a blackmail list and was managing to dig up dirt of some sort on just about everyone at the office of Mutant Wizards, the computer game company founded by Meg's brother Rob.
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    • The series' very first killer, in Murder with Peacocks, thought that Meg's mother was blackmailing him into marrying her; she was just 'subtly flirting' with him. Also downright insulted that he thought she'd have to resort to blackmail to get a man to marry her!
    • Getting rid of their blackmailer was also the motive of the murderers in Six Geese A-Slaying and Stork Raving Mad.
    • The murder victim in The Falcon Always Wings Twice was a blackmailer, although that wasn't the motive for the murder.
  • Censorship by Spelling: Meg and her family do this when discussing sensitive topics in earshot of Meg's twins in Hen of the Baskervilles. At one point, they spell out i-c-e c-r-e-a-m, only for one of the twins to immediately start babbling about ice cream, but Meg assures the others that the twins are always asking for "ice cream" and it doesn't mean that they're learning to spell.
  • Characterisation Marches On: Most of Meg's relatives who are portrayed as bumbling wannabes who try too hard in the earlier books become actually good at their chosen jobs/hobbies in the later ones, (even when they have their own methods.) Most notably her mother's attempts at interior decoration actually becoming classy and more or less within the budget, and her dad becoming an actual medical examiner for the police.
    • Meg's inclination to deliberately go sticking her nose in potentially dangerous situations goes down after she has the twins.
    • With regard to the long-time residents of Caerphilly, it's possible to track it as their opinion of Meg (and Michael and Meg's relatives) slowly changes from "outsider" to "one of ours".
    • As the general Caerphilly opinion of Meg changes from "outsider" to "one of ours", Chief Burke becomes less upset about (or at least more accepting of) Meg's snooping. it doesn't hurt that Meg gradually learns to keep the police informed about what she's found out.
  • Coincidence Magnet: Meg and her relatives have an uncanny ability to turn just about anything into an over the top chaotic mess by their mere presence. Then take it in stride and sort it out (more or less.)
  • Comic-Book Time / Webcomic Time: precise dates and too detailed references to any current events are avoided, computers and cell phones have the capabilities they had when respective books were written, but from the ageing of the twins, less than ten years passed in the books for almost 20 years of Real Life, while most adult and senior characters apparently didn't age at all.
  • Companion Cube: Played with. While she's never given it an actual name, Meg will consult her "notebook-that-tells-me-when-to-breathe" (starting out as an actual notebook, but eventully upgraded to a small three-ring binder) at least twice a book, even if it's just tearing out blank pages for other people to use.
  • Continuity Nod: quite a few, including the family game Xtreme Croquet that features in No Nest for the Wicket being mentioned at several family functions afterward.
    • The most obscure, however, involves distant cousin Wesley, who turns out to be the killer in Revenge of the Wrought-Iron Flamingos. More than a dozen books later, Meg mentions getting their annual letter begging her to speak for them at their parole hearing!
    • in the first book, Murder with Peacocks, Meg is serving as unofficial (and unpaid) wedding planner to three different weddings: one bride is a neurotic, bitchy socialite, one is her Cuckoo Cloud Lander best friend who seems to have very little comprehension of things like 'order deadlines' and 'it's a bad idea to wear velvet in ninety-percent humidity in summer', and her perfectionist, honestly-believes-the-world-revolves-around-her-wishes mother. Half a dozen books later, Meg insists on eloping (it's actually a condition of her accepting Michael's proposal) because even the thought of having her mother, Michael's mother, and any amount of relatives insisting on 'contributing' to the wedding planning is enough to send the normally-unflappable Meg into a panic.
    • One only long-time readers will pick up on: Lord of the Rings(#19) introduces a new Caerphilly resident, Ragnar Ragnarssen, a veteran of a half-dozen heavy metal bands. In Toucan Keep a Secret (#23) Meg visits him at his mansion, and reminisces about the changes from when she visited the previous resident. She's actually referring to the events of Swan for the money (#11), where the same property was the scene for both the rose show and the murders not to mention the owner of the property being the murderer, which is how Ragnar got the place!. Interestingly, this is also a Retcon, as Ragnar is mentioned (though not named) in The Nightingale before Christmas as having bought a local farm and built his gothic mansion on it.
    • early in the series, Michael splits his time between teaching and acting in a short-lived cult fantasy TV series. We'll always have Parrots takes place at a fan convention for the show; Michael kept one of his costumes and is using it as a Halloween costume in Lord of the Wings (and is worried about fitting into it!), and it's mentioned several times that Michael's received invitations to quite a few conventions as a featured guest, but has turned them all down because he doesn't want to leave Meg home alone with the twins.
    • A heartwarming example: in Revenge of the Wrought-Iron Flamingos (book three), Meg's mentor Faulk is an exhibitor at the Civil War festival, and Tad, a computer programmer friend of hers with a hot temper is one of the suspects (and so is Faulk, since they're a couple). They both return for the medieval fair at the centre of The Falcon Always Wings Twice (book twenty-seven), and Meg absently mentions that they're married. Also, Tad's temper makes him a suspect again.
    • on the more prosiac side of things, a lot of the mid-numbered books mention a schism in the town between the 'preserve the land' and 'development at any costs' note  townspeople, which is also the main reason for Caerphilly's chronic housing shortage (see The Thing That Would Not Leave).
  • Deadpan Snarker: Meg, with emphasis on the 'deadpan' as a way of being the Only Sane Man in her crazy family. Michael, too - it's one of the reasons they get along so well. And Josh and Jamie are showing signs of following in their parents' footsteps.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: in Murder with Peacocks - wait, Meg's parents are divorced? Michael's not Meg's boyfriend/husband - he's gay??? (Both situations are resolved by book two).
  • Famed in Story: Although Meg herself is only locally famous, her brother (a video game designer), husband (a TV actor-turned-academic who played an Ensemble Dark Horse character in a Show Within a Show) and Dr. Blake (her long-lost grandfather and a host of wildlife documentaries) are famous enough to have their own in-universe fandoms.
  • Genius Ditz: Meg's brother Rob. He's clumsy, has no computer (or any) skills whatsoever, and no business sense. He's still somehow a video game design genius and has a prosperous company to prove it... Even if his actual involvement in the business should be carefully supervised.
  • Granola Girl: Rose Noire. And she turns out to be one of the more level-headed of Meg's relatives...
    • Possibly best-expressed in The Falcon Always Wings Twice with her free-range wool. The sheep (belonging to neighbour Seth Early) are so free-range Meg has occasionally found them napping in her basement and drinking from her downstairs toilets; while Meg isn't sure about the sheep's opinion on the soothing music and aromatherapy incense Rose Noire insists on using during the shearing, they appreciate the full-body massages enough that after being sheared they'll head to the end of the line for another shearing.
  • Halloween Episode: Lord of the Wings is an entire book based around a Halloween festival in Caerphilly. Of course, the festival isn't complete without a couple of grisly murders and other dangerous incidents which Meg and her friends / family end up helping to investigate.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Each book features a bird of some sort in the title; all titles after Murder with Puffins also reference a popular saying, song title or the title of a film. Within the books themselves, in Crouching Buzzard, Leaping Loon, Meg's brother has created a role playing game-turned-computer game called "Lawyers from Hell" and is now trying to spin off various clones such as "Cops from Hell," "Doctors from Hell" and "Veterinarians from Hell."
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: How the killer in Murder with Peacocks incriminates himself. In front of hundreds of witnesses, no less!
  • Insistent Terminology: A Running Gag in the series is Meg's mother and her cronies adopting some pretentious (and not always completely accurate) term for a mundane object.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: This happens in Hen of the Baskervilles when a body ends up splayed across the county line of Caerphilly County and Clay County. Clay County is very much unequipped to do a proper investigation of the murder, but wants jurisdiction anyway. Meg and the Caerphilly County police chief manage to convince them to give Clay County to give the case to them by insinuating that the cost of the investigation will be astronomical, though Clay County still insists on having one of their people on the case as an observer, who turns out to be an interfering idiot. The twist in this case is that he's not simply an interfering idiot, he also happens to be the murderer.
  • Killer Cop: The murderer in Hen of the Baskervilles is this.
  • Like Reality Unless Noted: The books seem to take place more-or-less in the real world, with reference to real world television series such as Thomas the Tank Engine, but are set in the fictional town of Caerphilly, Virginia
    • Although most of the wildlife descriptions and factoids throughout the books are reasonably accurate, the gull species Dr. Blake is trying to find in Gone Gull appear to be entirely fictional, and would have been a major discovery in Real Life.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: Michael, in-universe, is still Famed in Story for his role as the evil wizard Mephisto in the cult fantasy show 'Porphyria, Queen of the Jungle'.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Michael by Meg in the very first book. It's easily deduced by savvy readers (or anyone who's read other books in the series!) but in the narrative, it's clear how Meg came to that conclusion, including Michael actually going along with the ruse in public in order to fend off a group of predatory, bitchy bridesmaids. Michael trying to get Meg alone to tell her he's straight and ask her out, only to interrupted by the discovery of yet another dead body or attempted murder, is a Running Gag in the book.
  • Morally Bankrupt Banker: The "Evil Lender," First Progressive Financial, in The Real Macaw and Some Like It Hawk. One of the darker and probably the most murderous Big Bad in the series.
  • Mystery doesn't settle for simple Tuesday: played with; seven of the twenty-nine books take place around Christmas. A further eight revolve around some kind of holiday or festival, which will turn out to be integral to the mystery itself or a background plot note 
  • Mystery Magnet: Meg Langslow. Lampshaded by Michael in Toucan Keep a Secret
    Michael (texting): Why do our local murderers always manage to commit their crimes when you're around?
    Meg (texting back): Dunno. Maybe the International Brotherhood of Thugs and Assassins insists.
  • Never Suicide
  • Not in Front of the Parrot: in The Real Maccaw the titular parrot fingers a previously-unsuspected character - not by repeating any incriminating dialogue, but by repeating his owner's name in tones of passion, and in one of his lover's distinctive New England accent note . Interestingly, the murderer and her victim actually joked about this trope pre-murder, so she bought a similar bird and swapped them. Unfortunately the maccaw was a rare breed that couldn't be found at the pet store, so credit card records of the substitute bird's purchase became part of the evidence against her.
  • Pregnant Badass: Meg Langslow in Stork Raving Mad
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The police chief, Burke, may not like Meg (or anyone) meddling with his investigations, but he definitely appreciates any info and leads, no matter the source.
    • inverted with several law enforcement officers Meg encounters in her early mysteries (see Rewatch Bonus).
  • Reread Bonus: it seems a little odd that the extremely practical Meg wouldn't keep the authourities informed of relevant information, especially Chief Burke, who is portrayed as being very good at his job. But if you re-read the series from the beginning, you notice realise for the first three or four books, the main police officer present is incompetent, intent on railroading one of Meg's relatives, or both. Meg starts her career as an Amateur Sleuth mainly in self-defense (in Murder with Peacocks this is almost literal, as she survives several mis-aimed murder attempts), and continues the habits she was forced to start with until Chief Burke realises it's best to work with Meg rather than trying to keep her out of the loop (not that she'd stay out of it, since everyone in sight seems to enlist her help with something. Or her mother will 'volunteer' her to do so).
  • Saving the Orphanage: Let's see... Meg's neighbour's farm, her own farm, a zoo, an animal shelter, all the town government buildings all needed rescuing at some point.
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave:
    • Inverted with Rob and Rose Noire; early on, Caerphilly's notorious housing shortage sees them move into rooms in Meg and Michael's three-story farmhouse. Rob moves out somewhere in the mid-teens books (mostly because he gains a steady girlfriend and eventual fiancee with her own place), but as of Owl be home Rose Noire is still around. However, Meg really appreciates their help with their ever-expanding animal population (often dropped off without permission) and eventually the twins.
    • Played straight, however, with the visiting Spanish playwright in Stork Raving Mad. He turns out to be a Party Animal who insists on hosting parties involving half the drama students and half the Spanish students of the college, or rehearsing loudly at all hours of the day and night. Which is not really a restful atmosphere for a woman eight and a half months pregnant with twins. That's not even counting her house subsequently becoming a murder scene. Notably, Meg never mentions having a houseguest who isn't related to her ever again.
  • Title Drop: With the name of the book in Some Like It Hawk, as the name of a service that provides a hawk to chase away nuisance pigeons
    • The last line of Toucan Keep a Secret does this as the punchline of a joke.
    • The title of Owl Be Home For Christmas get dropped a few times in the book as the title of one of the modified Christmas carols sung at the conference.
  • Who Murdered the Asshole?: A significant proportion of the plots, but not so significant that it becomes formulaic.
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