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Sunday 29 July 2012

‘The Real Macaw’ by Donna Andrews

Published by St Martin's Press 
June 2012.
ISBN: 978-1-250-00864-0

It is two in the morning and Meg Langslow is feeding her four-month-old twin sons when she hears strange noises from the living room of her house.  Going downstairs to investigate, she finds her home has been turned into a makeshift animal sanctuary.  In order to save money, the mayor has reversed the town's policy of running a sanctuary with a 'no kill' policy.  Meg's eccentric grandfather, father and brother have spearheaded an action group to break into the sanctuary and rescue the animals and now need sanctuary for a large collection of domestic pets, including a rare and exceptionally foul-mouthed macaw.  Unfortunately, Parker Blair, the man who had volunteered to transport the animals out of the county to safety has not turned up.  He has a good excuse. 
Parker has been murdered.

Contrary to her usual practice, Meg tries not to get involved in the investigation because she is mindful of her duty to her babies.  However clues present themselves and she cannot ignore them.  Meg soon discovers that Parker was a womaniser with many lovers, but he was also a devoted worker for animal welfare and an amateur investigator who has uncovered evidence that the mayor's corrupt practices have brought the town to the verge of bankruptcy.  But which of these facets of Parker's character have led to his murder?

As well as looking after her babies and her five-year-old, long-term house guest, Timmy, and investigating a murder, Meg has to battle to prevent her home from being forcibly taken over by the corrupt administration, and help her neighbours pack up the county's assets as the bank who lent the mayor money takes over the civic buildings.  Then, to add to her stress, her grandfather is attacked and badly injured.  That makes it personal.

The Real Macaw has just been released in paperback.  It is the thirteenth book featuring Meg Langslow.  All the books have humorous titles featuring the name of a bird.  (I think my favourite, most quirky title is The Revenge of the Wrought Iron Flamingos.)  In the first book in the series, Murder With Peacocks, Meg, a professional blacksmith, meets Michael, an actor and drama teacher.  The books follow their relationship, their engagement, marriage and house buying, then the bravest move of all for a fictional female sleuth, having children.

The Real Macaw is an excellent read. It has a clever plot twist that is very satisfying. Also it is warm and funny and totally engaging, filled with endearing and eccentric characters, including Meg's extensive, warm-hearted, enthusiastic and eccentric family; the long-suffering and competent Chief of Police and, last but not least, Spike the dog, alias the Small Evil One.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Donna Andrews is a winner of the Agatha, Anthony, and Barry Awards, a Romantic Times Award for best first novel, and two Lefty and two Toby Bromberg awards for funniest mystery. She spends her free time gardening at her home in Reston, Virginia.

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a core contributor to Women's Weekly.  She also writes contemporary and historical crime and is currently looking for an agent or publisher.  An Adult Education teacher, Carol has always maintained that writing and reading fiction is good for people and has spent much of her career facilitating Creative Writing for disabled people.

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