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Owls Well That Ends Well by Donna Andrews
I have a friend who is deeply into what you might call 'cosy mysteries'. Quite often these are based around such things as a coffee shop or a dog owner or needlework and so on. They are almost universally awful. However, I have to be grateful to my friend for introducing me to Donna Andrews, who is the exception to the rule.

Donna Andrew's came to everyone's attention - including mine - with a book called 'Murder With Peacocks'. Written in the first person by strong-minded 30 something Meg Langslow, it details a hectic summer during which Meg is chief bridesmaid and organiser of three weddings in the Southern USA. These are complicated by her eccentric family, and murder.

First let it be said that no-one in their right mind would read these books for the 'mystery'. Generally, you can spot the murderer pretty sharpish - in the latest, I had the correct answer within the first three chapters. No, if you read Andrews, you read her because she is a wonderfully observant writer of character comedy. What's more, several of these books are set in worlds we know all too well. "Revenge of the Wrought-Iron Flamingos" is set in a craft fair and reconstructionist display at the site of a revolutionary war battle. "Crouching Buzzard, Leaping Loon" in a games software company. As for "We'll Always Have Parrots" - this is yet another one of those books set at a convention - this one a single-show mediacon.

In 'Owls Well That Ends Well', Meg and her boyfriend have taken possession of a house with contents. In fact, the contents were the reason they could buy it at all, because the family who inherited it couldn't face the job of clearing it. Meg is organising a Yard Sale (Boot Sale to us Brits) to clear it. Her eccentric family and friends have taken the opportunity to join in and clear their own junk, so it has become rather larger than intended. It does not stop there - certainly not after someone murders an antiques dealer with the acquisitive instincts and morals of Lovejoy, but without his charm. Lots of people want him dead - and now here he is, dead. Meg wants the sale to start again, but the sheriff just wants Meg to stop snooping. Her cousin Horace wants to get his gorilla suit back, but has to assist as CSI techie. How can she get one of her relations won't sell her rose and lavender bath products? Will the barn owls in the barn survive the possible depredations of a Great Horned Owl - and her father? Who burned the rare Austin Freeman on the barbie and why? Can her mother be stopped from redecorating the new house in chintz?

This is just feelgood fun.

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While I like the Donna Andrews series with the sculptor, they progressively get cuter and more flaky to the extent that I lost patience with the latest one. However, I highly recommend her other series, which features a sentient AI computer. The first in the series is You've Got Murder.

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