Crouching Buzzard, Leaping Loon (Meg Langslow Series #4)

Crouching Buzzard, Leaping Loon (Meg Langslow Series #4)

4.2 17
by Donna Andrews

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Poor Meg Langslow. She's blessed in so many ways. Michael, her boyfriend, is a handsome, delightful heartthrob who adores her. She's a successful blacksmith, known for her artistic wrought-iron creations. But somehow Meg's road to contentment is more rutted and filled with potholes than seems fair.

There are Michael's and Meg's doting but demanding mothers,


Poor Meg Langslow. She's blessed in so many ways. Michael, her boyfriend, is a handsome, delightful heartthrob who adores her. She's a successful blacksmith, known for her artistic wrought-iron creations. But somehow Meg's road to contentment is more rutted and filled with potholes than seems fair.

There are Michael's and Meg's doting but demanding mothers, for a start. And then there's the fruitless hunt for a place big enough for the couple to live together. And a succession of crises brought on by the well-meaning but utterly wacky demands of her friends and family. Demands that Meg has a hard time refusing---which is why she's tending the switchboard of Mutant Wizards, where her brother's computer games are created, and handling all the office management problems that no one else bothers with. For companionship, besides a crew of eccentric techies, she has a buzzard with one wing---who she must feed frozen mice thawed in the office microwave---and Michael's mother's nightmare dog. Not to mention the psychotherapists who refuse to give up their lease on half of the office space, and whose conflicting therapies cause continuing dissension. This is not what Meg had in mind when she agreed to help her brother move his staff to new offices.

In fact, the atmosphere is so consistently loony that the office mail cart makes several passes through the reception room, with the office practical joker lying on top of it pretending to be dead, before Meg realizes that he's become the victim of someone who wasn't joking at all. He's been murdered for real.

Donna Andrews's debut book, Murder with Peacocks, won the St. Martin's Malice Domestic best first novel contest and reaped a harvest of other honors as well. This is the fourth book in the Meg Langslow series, which features the intrepid Meg and her cast of oddball relatives. Their capers are a lighthearted joy to read.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In Agatha and Anthony-winner Andrews's fourth wacky bird-themed mystery (Murder with Peacocks, etc.), Meg Langslow, a temporary switchboard operator at her brother Rob's computer-game company, Mutant Wizards, must find the real killer when Rob, who made his fortune from a game called Lawyers from Hell, is accused of strangling the office pest to death with a computer mouse cable. Keeping exposition to a minimum, the author lets crackling dialogue propel the plot. The office boasts a menagerie of remarkable pets, notably George, a buzzard with only one wing who has a perch by Meg's desk. There's a smile on nearly every page and at least one chuckle per chapter. The denouement may stretch credibility, but getting there is such fun it scarcely matters. (Feb. 10) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature - Jeanne K. Pettenati
Arthur has entered a contest to create a jingle extolling the virtues of Crunch Cereal. As the deadline looms closer and Arthur's creativity wanes, he takes a jingle that his sister D.W. invented and enters it into the contest. The moral dilemma Arthur faces is whether to credit D.W. for the jingle. Naturally, he dreams of gaining the glory for himself. The supporting characters and building suspense in the book make it a good choice for young readers who must learn to make the right choices in similar situations. This chapter book has ten chapters, with six pages in each and each chapter contains one full-page illustration.
School Library Journal
Gr 2-4-Includes: Arthur's Mystery Envelope, Arthur and the Scare-Your-Pants-Off Club and Arthur Makes the Team.
Kirkus Reviews
Bereft of her drama teacher sweetie, off filming a TV series, blacksmith/amateur sleuth Meg Langslow (Revenge of the Wrought-Iron Flamingoes, 2001, etc.) has gone undercover as an office manager at her brother Rob's suburban Virginia software firm because he thinks something's fishy. But it's hard to imagine how things could be any fishier than the normal routine at Mutant Wizards, whose regulars include a programmer dressed as a police officer; a system administrator who's running a porn site off the company's hardware; a disgruntled ex-employee, a tattooed biker, and a rabid fan of Rob's program, "Lawyers from Hell," who seem to have the office staked out for unrelated reasons; a system administrator who's stalking Meg personally; half a dozen leftover psychotherapists who refuse to vacate their offices; and an Irish wolfhound, a pair of St. Bernards, and a one-winged buzzard. In fact, the only reason Meg doesn't notice that office wag Ted Corrigan's corpse has been dumped on the automated mail cart that keeps going past her desk at reception is that Ted had been playing dead all morning. The plot ought to thicken with the news that the office jokester was the office blackmailer, but Andrews is too busy cracking gorgeous jokes to develop any of the suspects, or most of their secrets; the star of the wildly over-the-top finale could have been any of a dozen faceless lunatics. Even so, Andrews is unlikely ever to find a setting better suited to her brand of frantically inventive farce than Silicon Valley East.
From the Publisher

“There's a smile on every page.” —Publisher's Weekly

“This may be the funniest installment of Andrews' wonderfully wacky series yet.” —Romantic Times

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
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Meg Langslow Series , #4
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1"Mutant Wizards," I said. "Could you hold, please?"I switched the phone to my left ear, holding it with my awkwardly bandaged left hand, and stabbed at a button to answer another line."Eat Your Way Skinny," I said. "Could you hold, please?"As I reached to punch the first line's button and deal with the Wizards' caller, I heard a gurgling noise. I looked up to see that the automatic mail cart had arrived while I was juggling phones. A man lay on top, his head thrown back, one arm flung out while the other clutched the knife handle rising from his chest. He gurgled again. Red drops fell from his outstretched hand onto the carpet."Very funny, Ted," I said, reaching out to press the button that would send the mail cart on its way again. "You can come back later to clean up the stage blood."I could hear him snickering as the cart beeped and lurched away, following an invisible ultraviolet dye path that would lead it out of the reception room and into the main office area. I'd gotten used to seeing a set of metal shelves, six feet long and four high, creeping down the corridor under its own steam, but I was losing patience with the staff's insatiable appetite for playing pranks with the mail cart.Ted leaned upside down over the side, waggled the rubberknife suggestively, and made faces at me until the cart turned to the left and disappeared.I scanned the floor to see if he'd shed any more valuables this time--after his first tour through the reception area, I'd found eighty-five cents in change and his ATM card, and a coworker had already turned in a set of keys that were probably his. No, apparently his pockets were now empty. I wondered how long before he came looking for his stuff--I wasn't about to chase him down.Then I glanced at the young temp I was teaching to run the switchboard. Uh-oh. Her eyes were very wide, and she was clutching her purse in front of her with both hands."What happened to him?" she asked."Ignore Ted; he's the office practical joker," I said. "He's harmless."I could tell she didn't believe me."What about that?" she asked, pointing over my shoulder.I followed her finger."Oh, that's just George, the office buzzard," I said. "He's harmless, too."When he saw me looking at him, George shuffled from foot to foot, bobbed his head, and hunched his shoulders. I suspected this behavior was the buzzardly equivalent of a cat rubbing itself against your ankle when it hears the can opener. At any rate, George had started doing it on my second or third day here, when he realized I was the one delivering his meals. I'd actually begun to find this endearing--doubtless a sign I'd been at Mutant Wizards too long. The temp edged away, as if expecting George to pounce."Don't worry," I said. "He can't fly or anything. He's got only one wing. One of the staff rescued him from some dogs and brought him back for a company mascot."I vowed once again to try convincing my brother that abuzzard was an unsuitable mascot for his computer game company. Or at least that the mascot shouldn't live in the reception area, where visitors had to see him. And smell him."He stinks," the temp said."You get used to it.""You've got four lines lit up," the temp said, pointing to the switchboard, and then jumped as a loud snarling noise erupted from beneath the counter of the reception desk. I knew it was only Spike, the nine-pound canine-shaped demon for whom I was dog-sitting, testing the wire mesh on the front of his crate, but the sound seemed to unnerve the temp."Why don't you take over now?" I suggested. "I can stick around until you get the hang of it, and then--""I'm sorry," she said, backing toward the door. "I probably should have told the agency not to send me out at all today. I'm really not feeling very well. Maybe I should--""Meg!" my brother, Rob, shouted, bursting into the reception room. "Take a look!"He proceeded to fling himself about the room, performing a series of intricate shuffling movements with his legs while flailing his arms around, hunching his shoulders up and down, and uttering strange, harsh shrieks at irregular intervals.Normally, the appearance of my tall, blond, and gorgeous brother might have provided some additional incentive for a temp to stay. At least a temp this young. Under the circumstances, though, I wasn't surprised that the temp fled long before he ended up, perched on his left toes with his right leg thrust awkwardly out to the side and both arms stretched over his head."Ta-da!" he said, teetering slightly.I sighed and punched a ringing phone line."Meg?" Rob said, sounding less triumphant. "Was my kata okay?""Much better," I said as I transferred the call. "I just wish you wouldn't practice in the reception room.""Oh, sorry," he said, breaking the pose. "Who was that running out, anyway?""Today's temporary switchboard operator," I said. "She decided not to stay.""I'm sorry," he said. "I guess I did it again."I shrugged. It was partly my fault, after all. I was the one who'd invented the fictitious Crouching Buzzard kata--named, of course, for our mascot, George--and taught it to Rob in a moment of impatience. Or perhaps frustration at his unique combination of rabid enthusiasm and utter incompetence.And to think that when Rob first became obsessed with the martial arts, I'd encouraged him, naively believing it would help build his character."Give him backbone," one of my uncles had said, and everyone else around the Langslow family dinner table had nodded in agreement.Rob had brains enough to graduate from the University of Virginia Law School. Not at the top of his class, of course, which would have required sustained effort. But still, brains enough to graduate and to pass the bar exam on the first try, even though instead of studying he'd spent his preparation classes inventing a role-playing game called Lawyers from Hell.He then turned Lawyers from Hell into a computer game, with the help of some computer-savvy friends, and failing to sell it to an existing computer-game maker, he'd decided to start his own company.As usual, his family and friends tripped over each other to help. My parents lent him the initial capital. I lent him some money myself when he hit a cash flow problem and was too embarrassed to go back to Mother and Dad. Michael Waterston, my boyfriend, who taught drama at Caerphilly College,introduced him to a computer science professor and a business professor who were restless and looking for real-life projects. The desire to stay close to these useful mentors was the main reason Mutant Wizards ended up in the small, rural college town of Caerphilly, instead of some high-tech Mecca like San Jose or Northern Virginia's Dulles-Reston corridor.And now, less than a year later, Rob was president of a multimillion-dollar company, inventor of the hottest new computer game of the decade, and founder of Caerphilly's small but thriving high-tech industry.Not bad for someone who knew next to nothing about either computers or business, as Rob would readily admit to anyone who asked--including Forbes magazine, Computer Gaming World, and especially the pretty coed who profiled him in the Caerphilly student paper.At the moment, the young giant of the interactive multimedia entertainment industry was looking at George and frowning. George ignored him, of course, as he ignored everyone too squeamish to feed him. Although I noticed that when Rob was doing his phony kata, George had paid more attention than he usually did to humans. Maybe I'd accidentally invented something that resembled buzzard mating rituals. At least George wasn't upset. I'd found out, on moving day, that when George got upset, he lost his lunch. Keeping George calm and happy had become one of my primary goals in life."He's looking a little seedy," Rob said finally."Only a little?" I said. "That's rather an improvement.""Seedier than usual," Rob clarified. "Sort of ... dirty. Do you suppose he needs a bath?""Absolutely not," I said, firmly. "That would destroy the natural oils on his feathers. Upset the chemical balance of his system. Play havoc with his innate defenses against infection.""Oh, right," Rob said.Actually, I had no idea what washing would do to a buzzard. All I knew is that if George needed washing, I'd be the one stuck doing it. And I suspected it would upset him. No way."Then what about birdbaths?" Rob said."For small birds," I said. "Songbirds. And they only splash gently.""That's right," Rob said, his face brightening. "They clean themselves with sand.""Exactly.""We can get him a sandbox, then," Rob said. "You can rearrange the chairs to make some room for it. What do you think?"He was wearing the expression he usually wore these days when he suggested something around the office. The expression that clearly showed he expected his hearers to exclaim, "What an incredible idea!" and then run off to carry it out. At least that was what his staff usually did. I was opening my mouth to speak when--"Rob ! There you are!"We both looked up to see Mutant Wizards' chief financial officer at the entrance to the reception area."We've got a conference call in three minutes."Rob ambled off, and I dealt with the stacked-up calls. A sandbox. I'd been on the verge of coming clean. Confessing to Rob that Crouching Buzzard was a practical joke, not an abstruse kata.Instead, as I whittled down the backlog of phone calls for Mutant Wizards and for the motley collection of therapists with whom we shared office space, I began inventing a new kata, one even more fiendishly difficult and amusing to watch.Stop that, I told myself, when I realized what I was thinking. I wasn't here to invent imaginary katas. Or to mind the switchboard.I was supposed to find out what was wrong at Mutant Wizards.It all started two weeks ago, when Dad and Michael brought me back from the emergency room with my left hand hidden in a mass of bandages the size of my head."Wow, what happened?" asked Rob, through a mouthful of Frosted Flakes. He'd come over to Michael's apartment to feed and walk Spike while the rest of us were at the hospital, and had stayed to empty the pantry."Long story," I said, and disappeared into the bathroom for a little privacy. Michael went to the kitchen to fix me some iced tea, while Dad, a semiretired general practitioner, began telling Rob in excruciating detail exactly what was wrong with my hand and what the doctors at Caerphilly Community Hospital had done to repair it, along with a largely favorable critique of their professional expertise. I sighed, and Michael reached over to pat my good hand.Yes, I know I said he was in the kitchen and I was in the bathroom. The kitchen of the Cave, as we called Michael's one-room basement apartment, consisted of a microwave and a hot plate perched atop a mini refrigerator. The bathroom was separated from the kitchen by a curtain I'd hung five minutes after walking in the door on my first visit. The seven-foot ceiling felt claustrophobic to me, so I could only imagine how it affected Michael at six feet four inches. The fact that several of Michael's colleagues envied him for snagging these princely quarters showed how tight living space was in Caerphilly."Actually, I meant how did she injure it?" Rob said. I could tell by his voice that he was turning a little green. Rob fainted at the thought of blood. "What happened, Meg?""Like I said, long story.""My fault," Michael said. "She was trying do her blacksmithing in that tiny studio I found for her, and it was just too small. She hit her elbow on a wall while hammering something, and hammered her other hand instead.""Too bad," Rob said.You have no idea, I thought, staring into the cracked mirror, fingering the bruises and lacerations that covered my face. Michael had forgotten to mention that, along with my hand, I'd also banged the hell out of a structural wall and brought part of the ceiling down on my own head. The studio might have worked for a painter, but it was just too small for a blacksmith. Still, I'd tried to make it work. Tried desperately, because after nearly a year of looking for somewhere for the two of us to live and me to work, the tiny basement apartment and the even tinier converted garden-shed studio were the best we'd found. Apart from being painful and keeping me out of work for weeks, my injury meant that I still hadn't found a place to work in Caerphilly, and we'd have to go back to square one, with me living several hours away in suburban northern Virginia, seeing Michael only when one or the other of us could get away from work for long enough.Although obviously I wouldn't be working for a little while, I thought, staring at the bandage."How long till she can do her blacksmithing again?" Rob had asked, as if reading my mind."At least two months," Dad said."That's great!" Rob exclaimed."Rob!" Dad and Michael said it in unison, and I stuck my head through the bathroom curtains to glare at him."What I meant was, it's too bad about the hand, but I have a great idea about what she can do in the meantime," Rob said hastily. "Remember how I was saying that I think there's something wrong at Mutant Wizards? Maybe Meg could come andpretend to work there and figure out what's going on.""That's brilliant, Rob!" Dad exclaimed."Except for one tiny detail," I said. "What on earth could I possibly do at a computer company?""You can organize us!" Rob said, flinging his arms out with enthusiasm. "You said yourself that you can't imagine how we'll ever get moved into our new offices and that we should hire a competent office manager. You're perfect for it!"I wondered if he really was worried about the company, or if that was just an excuse to get me to come and organize them."I was rather thinking Meg could come back to California for the last few weeks of my shoot," Michael said. "You'll have plenty of time to rest while I'm filming, and then we can spend time together in the evenings."Nice try, but I knew better. Oh, not that he didn't mean it. But I'd seen what Michael's life was like when he was filming these TV guest shots. He'd be up at dawn for makeup call. I'd twiddle my one working thumb during the twelve to fourteen hours he was shooting. And then, over dinner, when he wasn't mumbling lines under his breath, he'd be fretting about whether playing a lecherous, power-mad sorcerer on a cheesy syndicated TV show was really how a serious actor--not to mention a professor of drama--should spend his summer break.Maybe not. But he enjoyed it so much that I didn't have the heart to say so. And besides, it paid well.And while the few decent houses we'd found for sale in Caerphilly over the past year were well beyond the means of Professor Waterston and Meg the blacksmith, they might not be unreachable for Mephisto the sorcerer. Especially if they signed him for several more episodes.And if you added in what my Mutant Wizards stock mightbe worth if the company continued successful, home ownership might eventually be within our means. Which, I realized, gave me more than an idle interest in why Rob thought there was something wrong at his company.I glanced up to see that all three were looking at me expectantly."So, what's your decision?" Michael asked.I should know better than to make major decisions while taking Percocet.Copyright © 2003 by Donna Andrews.

Meet the Author

Donna Andrews is the author of three previous books featuring Meg Langslow. She lives in Reston, Virginia, near Washington, D.C.

Donna Andrews is the author of the Meg Langslow mysteries, including Stork Raving Mad and Swan for the Money. She has won 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. When not writing fiction, Andrews is a self-confessed nerd, rarely found away from her computer, unless she's messing in the garden. She lives in Reston, Virginia.

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Crouching Buzzard, Leaping Loon 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
A blacksmith cannot work with only one hand so when Rob Langslow asks his sister to take on the job as office manager, Meg can¿t think of a reason to refuse although she wishes she could. Being office manager at Mutant Wizards is a cross between being a den mother at a college dorm or perhaps an older sister to a pack of brilliant eccentric adult children. Rob thinks something is wrong at the company and he wants Meg to find out what it is. With all the craziness going on at the company Meg doesn¿t have a clue what is going on until someone is murdered on the automated mail cart and everyone in the company has a reason to want to see him dead. Meg finds a list showing the victim is trying to blackmail many of the workers at the company and once she breaks the code she¿s sure she will find the perpetrator. Unfortunately, the killer doesn¿t give Meg time to decipher the data before the culprit makes another move. One of the reasons this series is so successful is that Donna Andrews keeps moving the heroine into a different environment with each new novel. This ensures the story line remains fresh and original as Meg leaps into new arenas. CROUCHING BUZZARD, LEAPING LOON is a humorous amateur sleuth novel that will have the audience chuckling out loud at some of the events that take place in various portions of the novel especially in the office space. The support cast is so loony that they manage to make the lead champion look like a levelheaded, down-to-earth changeling sort of like Marilyn Munster. Harriet Klausner
cjmaine More than 1 year ago
Love all her books, they are fun and keep you guessing till the end
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Her animal books are always fun to read. I can recommend them
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
LOVE Andrews' meg langslow series, especially Crouching Buzzard. The end was a huge surprise for me, often cozy mysteries are predictable but this one kept me guessing right up to the end. Plus, you've got to love a book that can make you lol!
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Robins_Son More than 1 year ago
This one is my favorite (so far) of all Donna Andrews' books. It was laugh-out-loud funny, very well-written, and fun to read. What more can you ask of a book or an author?
greatreader1 More than 1 year ago
There are times that you will laugh out loud. Meg's wonderfully zany family is fully entertaining.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of my all-time favorite authors! Fun trip through the whacky world of computer geeks, written by someone who is all too familiar with them.
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mysterybuffMS More than 1 year ago
I have read 3 of the books including this one and thought all of them were fantastic.