Book Review: Donna Andrews’ The Hen of the Baskervilles

Posted December 13, 2013 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’ The Hen of the Baskervilles

The Hen of the Baskervilles


Donna Andrews

cozy mystery that was published by Minotaur Books on July 16, 2013 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, Duck the Halls, The Good, the Bad, and the Emus, Lord of the Wings, The Nightingale Before Christmas, Die Like an Eagle, Gone Gull, How the Finch Stole Christmas!

Fifteenth in the Meg Langslow funny mystery series revolving around Meg and family in their small town of Caerphilly, Virginia.

My Take

Lately the Meg Langslow stories haven’t been as funny, but The Hen of the Baskervilles reminds me why I adore this series. It’s cozy, homey, and downright hilarious with its small-town life and obvious villain. Add in the focused pride of individual participants in their particular plants, animals, and crafts, and its humanity in spades.

I hadn’t really thought of how much work was involved in raising that pumpkin, and I love that Andrews took the opportunity to explain. This really is an excellent and too-funny story, one that’s made even better with Andrews’ promotion of heritage breeds and heirloom plants. The emphasis is more on the animals, but I do love how she explains the breeders’ hopes and dreams for their animals. I could wish she’d done an equal opportunity for the crops and produce, but perhaps Andrews felt that organic produce and cheeses and such have received more publicity than the critters.

Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hen! We are searching for the Hen of the Baskervilles.

Oh man, anyone putting on events would love Meg’s database with its matching map! Actually, they might want to read The Hen of the Baskervilles for reasons they can use to explain why a good judge is worth the price! The Cutest Dog Contest is so sweet!

Jesus, listening to Plunkett and Vern argue about who has jurisdiction over the body was just ridiculous. Sure made me laugh until the sheriff horrified me with his crime scene techniques.

“Don’t worry your pretty little head”? Oh, boy…

I loved Meg’s solution, LOL. Actually, Meg has all sorts of solutions that’ll mire the Clay County deputies in deep ca-ca.

Geez, that Genette is a piece of work. Everything and everyone is supposed to revolve around her? You’ll enjoy hearing how Meg plans to take her for as much as possible.

Why wouldn’t Meg simply email a link to what she found to the police? Okay, besides printing out the picture?

And it looks like the Langslow-Waterston’s will be adding to their animal menagerie, LOL. Can’t wait to read the next in line, Duck the Halls.

The Story

It has all the security a laid-back, easygoing town will provide, so it’s no surprise when acts of vandalism and theft destroy the efforts of some of the fair’s participants. Then again, it is a surprise that anyone would actually do such things until Meg learns of one fair entrant everyone is willing to blame.

The Characters

Meg Langslow, blacksmith and mom, is too inquisitive for words and always getting roped in to helping with events. This turn around she’s the deputy director for the Un-fair. Michael Waterston is Meg’s husband, a drama professor at the local college, and llama enthusiast. Josh and Jamie are their two-year-old twin sons. Harpo, Zeppo, Gummo, Groucho, and Chico are their pet llamas; Spike is their vicious little dog with Tinkerbelle, Rob’s dog, his faithful companion. Horace Hollingsworth is Meg’s cousin and a veteran crime scene analyst. Rose Noire is another cousin deeply into organic anything who sells herbal products. Dr. Langslow is Meg’s dad and volunteered to be the medical officer for the fair; Meg gets her inability to resist meddling from him. Mother is in charge of the winery pavilion, and it’s beautiful. I suspect she’ll be running a lot more next year. Rob is Meg’s brother who owns a computer game company.

Fair participants
With no one knowing if the Virginia State Fair would be able to go on, Caerphilly decided to stage its own Un-fair, a statewide agricultural exposition focusing on heritage animals and heirloom crops. Bill Dauber is the not-quite-competent chicken tent volunteer. Rosalie has lost a beautiful Baltimore Album quilt. Molly Riordan is a friend of Meg’s and makes the most delicious artisan cheeses. Too bad she’s so miserably unhappy. Dorcas is one of the winery participants. Genette Sedgewick, another winery participant, is the Other Woman, and a right bitch who believes she is entitled to anything she covets. Jim-Bob, a American Mammoth Jackstock donkey, will play a vital role. Betsy is a Jack Mule breeder and enthusiast. The Baskerv-, oops, I mean Bonnevilles are in mourning for that first known loss. Mason Shiffley is mortified when his sheep are hit. Seth Early is Meg’s neighbor and raises sheep; Lad is his Border Collie. Mr. Beamish raises Sumatrans.

Paul Morot is a wish-he’d-been. As a Genette victim, he’s missing his vineyard terribly. Brett Riordan is Molly’s roving husband. Doesn’t sound like much of a loss.

The usual cast of characters
Vern Shiffley is a deputy with the Caerphilly PD. Debbie Ann is the police dispatcher. Poor girl seems to work 24/7 in that town! Chief Burke is the police chief as well as a sheriff’s deputy. Aida is a deputy with EMT training.

Randall Shiffley is the mayor, Vern’s cousin, runs a popular construction company, and he’s the fair’s director. Stanley Denton is a private investigator who recently moved to Caerphilly—he’s infatuated with Muriel Slattery‘s pies, and maybe Muriel (she runs the local diner). Daphne can clean anything. Cousin Norbert Shiffley is about to have a bonanza weekend. Uncle Hiram has moved his moonshine operation over into Clay County to keep from embarrassing Randall if he gets busted.

Clay County Sheriff’s Department
Deputy Billy Plunkett is a scheming, incompetent idiot and jerk. Those are the polite terms I’m choosing… Sheriff Dingle makes Plunkett look right smart. Reely is another relative.

The Cover and Title

The cover is too typically Meg Langslow with a gradient of lilac that is dark around the edges and lightens up in the center to focus on the cartoony depiction of a midway game of Shoot-the-Chicken even as The Hen of the Baskervilles waves her wing to reveal all. A cute chick, she’s wearing a green vest with collar revealing a white button-down with tie, a magnifying glass in her vest pocket, a meerschaum betwixt beaks, and a green deerstalker to match. It’s definitely enough to let you know you’re entering the Fun House!