Birder, She Wrote: A Meg Langslow Mystery (Meg Langslow Mysteries, 33)

Image of Birder, She Wrote: A Meg Langslow Mystery (Meg Langslow Mysteries, 33)
Release Date: 
August 1, 2023
Minotaur Books
Reviewed by: 

“Between the careful plotting, the clever twists, and the colorful descriptions, Birder, She Wrote fills a nice slot for summer beach reading.”

Ah, summer in the country—a hammock, watching the hummingbirds, a break before going back to her job as the mayor’s special projects assistant. Meg Langslow ought to be able to count on that much, right? But that would be leaving out the hive of bees her father is setting up at her home, her grandmother Cordelia’s community activism that’s somehow landed a reporter among them, and of course, the political challenges of her job, inconvenient and pressing.

Her “short list” at the end of the first chapter already involves calming two wealthy families in town and finding the two unusual men whose lives have caused an upset. An upset, that is, about bees. Funny coincidence, right?

Actually, from the moment Britni the reporter pushes into the family’s efforts, nothing feels very funny. Almost immediately—after all, this is book 33 in the lively Southern mystery series that always involves some level of bird life out in the countryside—a dead body turns up. And finding the lost naturalist resolves nothing! Meanwhile, why on earth is Britni determined to profile Meg’s socially active grandmother for a sappy sweet-tea magazine that focuses on decor and dresses?

Count on Andrews for liberal splashes of humor: Meg and the law enforcement team, including Meg’s father, search the woods using Pomeranians as snuffling body detectors and then as search-and-rescue canines. Gentle puns also abound. But Andrews also sticks with the tried-and-true regimen of a good crime novel: clues and red herrings, and probing for the perfect combination of motive, means, and opportunity that makes clear who has got a mission to murder in the neighborhood.

Meg presses the chief of police to reason more closely about the murder victim: “How’d he manage to get himself killed out here near one of Clay County’s better-known drug and moonshine markets? And . . . isn’t it more usual for drug dealers and moonshine sellers to keep shifting around where they do their dealing?” She pairs the circumstances with her knowledge of her hometown and past crimes, and takes the notion further: “What if Wally the Weird now fancies himself a hotshot vigilante anti-drug crusader? What if he thought he’d found another neighborhood teen on his way to buy drugs and followed them out here to get the goods on them?”

Meg’s also blunt when questioning local citizens, including those complaining about wildlife around their new homes in the country: “The bees were here first,” she points out. “If a bee-free environment was essential to your health and happiness, maybe you should have done a little more investigation before you bought your house.” The point’s well taken, and might have eliminated some local friction and even dropped a suspect off the list, if only the woman Meg lectured hadn’t turned out to be a likely victim of blackmail. So the question becomes, at what point does blackmail and the threat to “tell a secret” become motive enough to kill?

Adding fresh timeliness to the novel is a sideline of tracking down a long-vanished African American cemetery in the woods—something that the prissy-appearing reporter tagging along finds totally uninteresting, but that puts the Pomeranians to even more use and engages Meg and her family with more of the neighbors and their histories.

Andrews offers a smoothly spun story full of her trademark observations of nature (not just birds) and women’s friendships. Between the careful plotting, the clever twists, and the colorful descriptions, Birder, She Wrote fills a nice slot for summer beach reading. Just don’t start looking up things like the “murder hornets” Meg has to consider before packing your book bag for vacation.