Book Review: Donna Andrews’ The Good, the Bad, and the Emus

Posted August 28, 2014 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 Good, the Bad, and the Emus

The Good, the Bad, and the Emus


Donna Andrews

cozy mystery that was published by Minotaur Books on July 8, 2014 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, Lord of the Wings, The Nightingale Before Christmas, Die Like an Eagle, Gone Gull, How the Finch Stole Christmas!

Seventeenth in the too-funny Meg Langslow Mystery series. This one finds the family getting bigger and takes place outside of Caerphilly at Riverton.

My Take

Andrews continues with the fun, and I’m having a hankering for an emu egg for breakfast. Hmmm… Meg’s manipulations of everyone to keep the peace, send them down the path she prefers, or to get what she wants are hilarious. Thank god she manipulates for good. I do love how well Meg knows her kids and how much time and attention she gives them.

Then there’s Meg’s so-practical side. She’s an organizer, she understands people and their foibles, and she’s okay with them. My favorite example is when she sees her grandfather having a late-night “coffee” and suggests a good alternative that won’t bring unwanted advice, lol.

You can’t help loving the wide range of characters in this story. Not all the core characters appear in this one, but you’ll still love those who do. Dad doesn’t have as big a role as he usually does; he adores diving into mysteries and always sets up a portable MASH unit wherever he goes, and he doesn’t slack off in this one. We just don’t see that much of him. Lordy, Andrews cracked me up with descriptions of Natalie’s wardrobe! I especially loved Natalie’s decking out her tent and pith helmet to match her preferences!

Yeah, it’s lots of fun, and it is a sad one. The chance of finding a lost relative, the anger that it couldn’t have been the other one to die, and then the resolution, the realization, that the living still have so much to give. I kind of wish that Andrews had pulled at our heartstrings more with Dad’s reactions, but then I suppose that would cut into the humorous side of it. Meg and Annabel learn quite a bit about each other in this: Meg’s investigative experience and Annabel’s judicial knowledge. Both have an interest in mysteries. Seems to run in the family. Common sense seems to run in the family too, lol.

“A hunch is a deduction your subconscious has made from evidence you don’t yet know you have … all you need to do is bring the evidence up into your conscious mind.”

It’s a good example of why you should give people a chance to talk And the value of an open mind! It would have relieved some of the frustration!

You can’t help laughing (and being impressed!) by the turnout of Blake’s Brigade. A mention at dinner and too early the next morning finds dozens of people milling around in Annabel Lee’s back field. Sometimes I think it’s worth reading just for Blake’s “pronouncements” alone. He’s too funny in his ego. It’s even funnier when you have intelligent characters who enjoy laughing behind a raised hand and yet accept his egocentricities.

For a minute, I thought Meg wasn’t going to tell Annabel about that candy! The poisoning certainly makes things more tense — and funnier. Those letter wars sound rather vicious. I wish Andrews had provided some examples…

Oh, yes! That imagery Meg comes up with of Annabel as a dragon with her hoard and her castle…too funny!

I am curious about that vicious storm that came through and took down power lines for at least half the state and took down cell towers, and there’s never a mention of muddy ground. I want a storm like that. Seems a waste too of Jim Williams’ problems. Just a mention that could have been taken into the dramatic arena, but isn’t. And I think that bank should be investigated. Andrews never does provide the reason why Cordelia and Robert didn’t have children. It’s hinted that it was Cordelia’s fault, but never what it was. Why didn’t the cousins have a switch installed in the house? It doesn’t make sense.

At last! We find out why Annabel is such a recluse and even talks of resorting to a veil!

Lots of rustling in bushes, wrangling through the forest, wending through camera crews, and dodging murderous intent. It’s a sweet ending, exactly right, and yet it felt a bit flat. Ah well…

Saved by the emus!

The Story

Inattention puts paid to Meg’s initial plans for her summer vacation and works out beautifully for Stanley Denton. He needs to borrow Meg’s face for a few days for an investigation he’s doing for Dr. Blake.

It’s a trip that will have far-reaching consequences to the entire Langslow family, sad ones as Stanley found the target of his search six months too late. She’s dead. There is however a cousin who may part with memorabilia or at least let the family see it IF they solve Cordelia’s murder.

Rescuing the emus who were flushed out of the former Biscuit Mountain Ostrich and Emu Ranch years ago makes a good cover story.

The Characters

Meg Langslow normally works at a forge creating works of art in iron, but having twin rowdies has slowed that form of expression down. Her husband, Michael Waterston, is now a tenured professor of drama at Caerphilly College. The boys, Josh and Jamie, are four years old now and a hoot all over the place all the time with questions blasting out everywhere. Bodes well for their futures! Dr. James Langslow always claims he was found as a baby in the mystery section of the library, where the librarian adopted him. Rob is Meg’s brother (he mostly just gets a mention), and he’s brought his Irish Wolfhound, Tinkerbell, who’s friends with Spike, the Waterstons’ vicious purse dog. Rose Noire is Meg’s cousin, who’s heavily involved in the metaphysical. Mother also has a brief cameo. Natalie is Meg’s seventeen-year-old niece, sister Pam‘s youngest, who bravely took on the role of summer babysitter.

Camp Emu
Dr. Montgomery Blake is the famous zoologist who keeps showing up on Animal Planet and National Geographic. He’s also Dr. Langslow’s no-longer-long lost daddy. SPOOR is the Society to Preserve Our Owls and Raptors, a local bird conservation and appreciation group that turns out to help Blake’s endeavors. Caroline Willner is an old friend and runs the Willner Wildlife Sanctuary. She’s Blake’s second-in-command and has shown up in her new toy, a brightly painted gypsy caravan drawn by a placid Percheron.

Blake’s Brigade is a blend of the paid and volunteers and has everything: RVs, camera crews, a mess tent with private caterers, a shower tent, port-a-potties, eccentric air support, wranglers from both ends of the movable sector, and more. The blonde Valkyrie, Sherry S. Smith, is the photo-release Nazi! Jim Williams is a new recruit. Seth Early is one of the Waterstons’ neighbors, a sheep farmer, who has joined this expedition with his border collie, Lad. Thank god!! Meg reckons he’s here to be close to Rose Noire… The unfortunate Fred who likes a bit of Scotch with his coffee is going to miss most of this. Evan is a lazy slug but good for sitting around and guarding gates. Dr. Clarence Rutledge is Dr. Blake’s regular vet — the holistic biker one — and the leader of the Knights of the Iron Horse who will go up against the Knights of the Silver Spear led by Lady Joni of Langevoort. Millicent is knitting the ugliest sweaters, scarves, and leggings for the emus.

Cordelia Mason was Dr. Blake’s old college girlfriend whom he lost track of. Robert Mason is her late husband. Annabel Lee is the cousin who wants that murder solved. Uncle Moss and Aunt Morgana were Cordelia’s parents. Weaver bought their house. Dr. Dwight Ffollett, a dentist, is a good friend of Mrs. Mason and Miss Lee. Thor Larsen owes a great debt to the cousins and works at Larsen’s Auto Repair. He ends up helping quite a bit in this, and Dr. Blake takes quite the shine to the poor lad. Ann Murphy is the local librarian with a secret crush on Dr. Blake.

The nosy Theo Weaver is the nasty mean neighbor next door. You’ll love that story of the mulberry tree, lol. Chief Heedles inherited the office from her daddy, who thought the world of Weaver. Virgil Eaton owned the Biscuit Mountain Ostrich and Emu Ranch until it passed to his son, Hosmer. Smedlock Mining is one of the bad mining companies who prefer to spend the money on fast cars than on environmental controls. The emus were lured to Pudding Mountain.

The emus
Liz is the boss emu. John Stuart Mill is being fought over. Frances Hodgson Burnett, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Zora Neale Hurston, Hans Christian Anderson, Claire Boothe Luce, Lucy Maud Montgomery, John Quincy Adams, John Wilkes Booth, Howard Phillps Lovecraft, Agnes de Mille, and Edwin Way Teale are excellent escape artists. Edward Everett Horton is the smallest and can’t wait to go into captivity. It’s safer!

Stanley Denton is a private investigator who moved to Caerphilly in, I think, Some Like It Hawk , 14.

The ER
Crystal is a friend of Meg’s who’s put her and the family in her “frequent flyer” group. Dr. Gridwell is the ER duty doctor, and Dad’s opinion on him is still out. Bringing up Dad’s name is a surefire way to get hurried through…!

The Toad Wars is how Blake’s Brigade refers to one of their campaigns against a mining company to preserve a new species of toad. They weren’t poisonous, so they were named Anaxyrus willneri.

The Cover and the Title

The cover is too funny with its yellow background and flying carpet of green grass with three dressy emus pacing out. The first emu is wearing what could be Millicent’s pink scarf topped off with pink sunglasses and a hat (could be a pith helmet!) bedecked with a pink flower. The next emu in line is less fancy with a big pink bow over its eyes. But it’s that last emu that sums it up as he races by with some yellow crime scene tape, lol.

The title is a fun take-off on the Clint Eastwood movie, only justice will be found as Meg winnows through The Good, the Bad, and the Emus.