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GONE GULL by Donna Andrews: Book Review

Full disclosure–this is the first Meg Langslow mystery I’ve read.  It’s important to state that because there’s obviously a lot of backstory; this is the twenty-first book in the series, so I feel as if there’s a great deal that I’m missing.  That being said, Gone Gull is a delightful read.

Meg is a blacksmith by profession, rather unusual in itself, as well as an artist creating wrought-iron sculptures.  In her latest adventure, Meg, her husband, and their twin sons are spending the summer at the Biscuit Mountain Craft Center in Virginia, a new venture started by her grandmother Cordelia.  Meg is heading a blacksmithing workshop, Michael is in charge of the children’s drama class, and various other artists/craftspeople are teaching painting, photography, and jewelry-making, to name just a few of the offerings available.

The novel opens at the beginning of the Center’s second week of classes.  The first week’s classes could be considered a success except for the fact of middle-of-the-night vandalism in several of the rooms:  prints destroyed in the photography studio, the potter’s kiln tampered with, windows left open during a rainstorm that destroyed students’ artwork.  Cordelia is worried that if this continues and the students become aware of the extent of the damage, a number of them will leave and demand their money back.

Meg has taken to making certain that the artists’ studios are secured when no one is using them.  She’s checking all the doors and windows one morning before classes begin when she gets to the room of the Center’s most difficult artist–Edward Prine.  Prine, a man who fancied himself a ladies’ man and made himself a nuisance to several women students, is lying on the floor with a knife in his back.  Students and staff agree that Prine was certainly an annoying man, but was that sufficient motive for murder?

Meg’s family is large and eccentric, several of them spending the summer at the Center.  At the head of the Center is her independent-minded grandmother Cordelia, never married to Meg’s grandfather; her grandfather, Dr. Blake, a world-famous biologist and ornithologist with a chronically bad temper; her father, a physician who views murder as a chance to do some amateur detecting; and various cousins with the expertise necessary to help Meg find the killer of Edward Prine.

The book’s title refers to a seabird named after the eighteenth-century ornithologist and naturalist George Ord.  The day before his death, Prine had shown Meg’s grandfather photos of a painting he had done of a seabird, allegedly having seen the bird on the Center’s patio.  The photos were at first glance scathingly dismissed, the scientist saying that there was no gull with those markings and accusing Prine of using his imagination to combine two or more species in his painting.  However, that night, after looking more closely at the photos, Blake recognized the bird as an Ord Gull, a species that experts believed to be extinct.  Wanting to contact Prine immediately to find out more, he’s persuaded by Meg to wait until the following morning, but by that time Prine has been murdered.

And then there’s a second murder.

Gone Gull is written in a light, fast-moving style, with a strong plot and interesting characters.  Donna Andrews is the recipient of a slew of awards, including an Agatha and an Anthony for her first novel Murder with Peacocks in 1999.  In Gone Gull, it appears she hasn’t lost a step since.

You can read more about Donna Andrews at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.


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