Murder With Puffins by Donna Andrews
My rating: 3 of 5 stars (7/10)
After the chaos of the summer (weddings, peacocks and murder among other things, chronicled in Murder with Peacocks) Meg Langslow and her boyfriend Michael are desperate for some time and space to themselves. Meg suggests they go to the island of Monhegan off the coast of Maine, where her Aunt Phoebe has a summer cottage and Meg has an open invitation. There might not be any electricity and it is no longer exactly summer, but that should just help insure they get some peace and quiet.
Meg couldn't be more wrong. They arrive along with a coming hurricane to find the island swarming with bird watchers - and Meg's parents (back from their honeymoon in Europe), her brother Rod, Aunt Phoebe and Aunt Phoebe's friend Mrs Fenniman. The cottage is already full and Michael ends up sharing a room with Rod while Meg gets the sofa. So much for a romantic getaway.
Things only get worse after Meg and Michael find themselves in a confrontation with local artist Victor Resnick, who take potshots at them when they stray onto his land. They soon discover no-one on Monhegan likes Resnick and he likes no-one in return. This includes Meg's parents, since her mother knew him when she spent summers on the island as a teenager and local gossip has it that Meg's father is intensely jealous of this.
Then the hurricane hits, the island is cut off, Meg's father and Aunt Phoebe go AWOL at the height of the storm and when Meg and Michael go looking for her father the next morning they find Resnick instead, face down in a tidal pool and quite, quite dead. Meg's father is immediately considered a suspect and when Meg and Michael find a draft of a horribly purple prosed biography of Resnick that implies he had an affair with Meg's mother when she was only fifteen, things look even worse.
Meg takes it upon herself to solve the case, clear her father and save her mother's reputation, all before the hurricane abates enough for the ferry to start running again and the mainland authorities can arrive.
Like its predecessor, this book was wonderfully fun to read. Meg is a great character, her family remains totally insane and Michael puts up with them all with great grace. Andrews has had much fun with the chapter titles, taking known titles and sayings and substituting "puffin" in there somewhere. Examples include "A Long Day's Journey into Puffin" and "Zen and the Art of Puffin Maintenance".
My main reservation is that as I approached the end, I began to feel that the focus on the book was much more on the detection than on the solution. Working out who did it suddenly seemed to take about thirty seconds, and any following confrontation with the murderer seemed anti-climatic, as if it was just a side issue. Indeed, the book didn't end there, since it was now more important for Meg and Michael to discover the author of the awful Resnick biography and find a way to hush up any potential scandal. All of which they manage of course, even if some of their methods are far from conventional.
That said, this is still a very fun book to read. I thoroughly enjoyed going along for the ride with Meg and Michael and I look forward to their further adventures.
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