Book Review: Donna Andrews’ Lord of the Wings

Posted October 10, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Donna Andrews’ Lord of the Wings

Lord of the Wings


Donna Andrews

amateur sleuth, mystery that was published by Minotaur Books on August 4, 2015 and has 320 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include The Real Macaw, Some Like It Hawk, The Hen of the Baskervilles, Duck the Halls, The Good, the Bad, and the Emus, The Nightingale Before Christmas, Die Like an Eagle, Gone Gull, How the Finch Stole Christmas!

Nineteenth in the Meg Langslow amateur sleuth mystery series and revolving around Meg, a mother and blacksmith in the town of Caerphilly, Virginia.

My Take

I usually enjoy Andrews’ writing, and Lord of the Wings was missing something. I suspect that all the focus on the Halloween activities in town was my problem, as there wasn’t much focus on the family. It’s the family that I adore the most. Dad is so pushy when it comes to doing his doctor-thing, and if he can combine it with solving a mystery…he is so there! It felt as though Grandfather only had a cameo piece, although he was fun with his costume and ravens, but his personality really didn’t shine through. Mother wasn’t as present nor was Rose Noire. Rob popped in, and I loved his part in this. I especially enjoyed how active his company was with those costumes! I am so jealous!! Y’all have got to check out the coat of arms! I want one! Hmmm, I want one of those robot costumes too…

I’m rather envious of the town. Seems that people really pull together to accomplish things. Most places would need to do a study, argue with a committee for six months, and maybe get it done in two years. Nope, in Caerphilly, it just takes overnight.

Meg is an indulgent mom with all those costume changes, lol. A girl (and the boys) after my own heart. I loved the bit where Andrews describes the evolution of Jamie’s costumes — ahh, if only we had all had moms like that, *giggle*. Then poor Meg gets shot down when her concept and Josh’s concept of a robot costume clashes. Ya can’t help but feel for her. I’m not sure if I’d’ve been as complacent about it as Meg. No, no, I’m positive I wouldn’t have.

Meg’s annoyance with Lydia Van Meter is justified and funny in that want your cake and eat it too way. Meg doesn’t want to run the Halloween festival, but she hates how Lydia deals with it. I do have to grant that Meg is absolutely right — and that’s before things get really deep in Caerphilly. Just look at Meg’s suggestion about the protesters. I do appreciate Meg’s honesty in admitting to herself that some of her irritation is that she’d have done things differently from Lydia.

Oh, yeah! Scarecrows set up to simulate a zombie attack, lol.

I know that in the past I’ve whined about Andrews mentioning that bloody “notebook-that-tells-me-when-to-breathe” much too often, and Andrews has almost cut it out of this one. I don’t mean to be a hypocrite, but if I hadn’t read the previous stories, I wouldn’t have picked up on it in Lord of the Wings. And, ahem, when is Meg gonna get an iPad? I’d think it’d be easier…

I may not agree with Dr. Smoot’s taste in décor, but ya gotta appreciate a man who’s willing to go with what he likes. I enjoyed Grandfather’s blending of science and the spirit of Halloween as well. What a great way to spark children’s interests!

“‘Always open season on tourists,’ Osgood said with a straight face. ‘The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries considers them a nuisance species…'”

It’s a great story for those who are working to promote their towns with ideas on how to generate some income. A few stories back, Caerphilly almost went bankrupt thanks to one family’s shenanigans, so the core characters have been working hard.

It’s also cozy family fun and an easy read.

The Story

It’s another holiday and Mayor Randall Shiffley has turned Caerphilly, Virginia into Spooky City, USA. The residents are covering every window with cobwebs and roaming the streets in costume to entertain the tourists, and Meg’s grandfather is opening a new “Creatures of the Night” exhibit in the zoo.

When a suspicious fire burns the museum and a body is found, Meg Langslow surrenders her home as a safer party venue. But all too soon a real body mars the town’s creepy fun, and it’s up to Meg to save Halloween.

The Characters

Meg Langslow is a blacksmith and mom to twin boys: Josh and Jamie. Michael Waterston is her husband who teaches drama at the local college; he’s also heir apparent for the drama chair. The llamas are still trotting around and being coopted into various roles, *more laughter*. They even have their own llama costume closet. Spike is their “Small Evil One”. Do NOT try to pet him! Dahlia Waterston is Michael’s mother, and now known as “Grammy“.

Rob Langslow is her somewhat scattered lawyer brother, who made his fortune with a computer game. Mutant Wizards is his computer gaming company. Sounds like it’s taking off in a variety of directions. Tinkerbell is his Irish wolfhound. Rose Noire is their cousin. Both she and Rob live with Meg and Michael.

Dad, Dr. Langslow, loves to stick his nose into everything. So, it helps that he’s now Caerphilly’s medical examiner. Mother has exquisite taste. Their grandfather, Dr. Montgomery Blake, owns Caerphilly Zoo; he’s a famous zoologist and environmentalist. Caroline runs a local private wildlife sanctuary and is one of Grandfather’s usual allies — and one of the few able to boss him around. She also organizes Blake’s Brigade, a loosely organized group of fanatically devoted bird and animal lovers who volunteer to help Grandfather with his animal welfare and environmental projects. They must have a blast with all the odd calls-to-arms they have! Vincent Price is a thirteen-foot male alligator. Dr. Clarence Rutledge is the local veterinarian.

Randall Shiffley is the current mayor of Caerphilly. The thoughtless and self-absorbed Lydia Van Meter was recently hired to a new position, Special Assistant to the Mayor.

Caerphilly PD
Chief Burke has come to accept Meg’s help. Debbie Ann is the emergency dispatcher. Deputies Vern Shiffley; Aida Butler, who’s a friend of Meg’s (her Aunt Niobe is acclaimed as one of the best cooks in the county); Sammy Wendell; and, Jabba the Hut, who is a civilian liaison in costume, are all working this week. Deputy Paulsen is on loan from Goochland County.

Horace Hollingsworth is one of Meg’s cousins who likes to wear an ape costume. He’s also Caerphilly’s current scene-of-crime investigator. Cousin Festus Hollingsworth is a very good defense attorney.

Chief Jim Featherstone is head of the fire department.

The Goblin Patrol is…
…more properly known as the Visitor Relations and Police Liaison Patrol. Meg is heading this, and she’s enjoying the more limited role. Charlie Gardner is her second-in-command. Other patrollers include Osgood Shiffley who runs the gas station and is one of Randall’s cousins; Ragnar Ragnarsen is the closest thing Caerphilly has to a celebrity — a retired heavy metal drummer; Ashley Shiffley is another cousin; and, Thor Larson (he works for Grandmother Cordelia, one of Meg’s grandmothers, during semester breaks and summer vacations).

Dr. Smoot is obsessed with all things vampire (the Chief is so pleased he’s no longer the local medical examiner!) Now he’s struggling to open Caerphilly Museum of Oddities and Antiquities about the town’s history, and it’s this year’s Haunted House (it’s the Smoot family house left to Smoot by Aunt Venicia).

Muriel owns the local diner. Mason and Noah are Jamie and Josh’s best friends. The Reverend Robyn Smith is rector at Trinity Episcopal. Harris Griswald bought his wife, Becky, one butt-ugly brooch. Branson Flugleman runs the feed store. Mrs. Ellie Draper is the head librarian. Dr. Sengupta is an orthopedist. Dr. Carper is treating Smoot. The Rancid Dead are a local heavy metal band who play throughout the festival. Luigi owns the pizza restaurant. Frank Ledbetter owns the Caerphilly Clarion and has his own take on Brimfield’s demands.

The Shiffleys are…
…an old Caerphilly family who have stuck around. Arabella Shiffley was one of their black sheep. She married a no-good, dishonest bootlegger, Billy Pratherton. Yep, he was unlike the honest bootleggers in the family, ahem. Arabella Pratherton Walmsley is a great-granddaughter who died in an accident as she was tracking down ancestors. Mary Walmsley is Arabella’s mother. Randall is renting his aunt’s house’s to Lydia. Judge Jane will help at the museum. Cousin Peewee owns the field where they’ll set up the concert venue. Velma Shiffley is the kids’ teacher.

The Brimfields are…
…another old Caerphilly family who fled in the 1930s. Josiah is the current head of the family. William Henry Harrison Brimfield , John Tyler Brimfield, and Millard Fillmore Brimfield were in and around World War I.

The Paltroons are…
…members of the DAR in Caerphilly. Captain-Major-Colonel Habakkuk Paltroon fought in the Revolutionary War. The current Mrs. Paltroon is a snob and a pain in the neck. She’ll get her fall, lol. Meanwhile, she’s holding court at the Weed booth. Dr. Gwinnett Cavendish is an art restoration and conservation expert.

The Pruitts are…
…the longtime family who almost bankrupted Caerphilly.

The scavenger hunt is…
…wreaking havoc on the festival with all the stunts they’re pulling. The prize is a copy of Vampire Colonies II published by Mutant Wizards. Justin Klapcroft is only the first. James Green has a spotted past and not much of a future. Tyler Rasmussen has an ornery father. Wayne Smith is a student at Christopher Newport University.

The Raven Clan is…
…but one of the clans at the festival and is in charge of decorating the barn. And what they’re doing running around with real swords, I don’t know. Norton Brewer is a nineteen-year-old computer science major; the Elders of Clan Raven include Bill Higgins, Tony Ruiz, and Celia Smith.

A LARP is a live action role-playing game.

The Cover and Title

The cover is Halloween orange with ravens flying over the silhouette of the perfect “haunted” three-story Victorian house. True to the story, there is one raven with the “one ring”.

The title is pushing it a bit to continue with Andrews’ avian theme for titles, but it is catchy as it plays off the Lord of the Rings idea with that naughty raven who is the Lord of the Wings.