Owls Well that Ends Well (Meg Langslow Series #6)by Donna Andrews
Meg Langslow was actually looking forward to renovating the old Victorian mansion she and her boyfriend Michael bought. But she wasn't thrilled by the lifetime of junk accumulated by the house's eccentric previous owner, Edwina Sprocket. The easiest solution: hold the end-all and be-all of gigantic yard sales. But when the event attracts the late Miss Sprocket's
Meg Langslow was actually looking forward to renovating the old Victorian mansion she and her boyfriend Michael bought. But she wasn't thrilled by the lifetime of junk accumulated by the house's eccentric previous owner, Edwina Sprocket. The easiest solution: hold the end-all and be-all of gigantic yard sales. But when the event attracts the late Miss Sprocket's money-hungry heirs, the over-enthusiastic supporters of some endangered barn owls, and customers willing to go to any lengths to uncover a hidden treasure, Meg suspects things have gotten a little out of hand…
Then an antiques dealer is found stuffed in a trunk with his head bashed in—and the yard sale turns into a day's-long media circus. Even worse, the suspect arrested for the crime is the person Michael needs to secure academic tenure. Now, Meg is juggling an ever-growing list of suspects. And she's going to have to outthink and outwit one clever murderer who lives by "everything must go…"
“It's a hoot...a supporting cast of endearingly eccentric characters, perfectly pitched dialogue and a fine sense of humor make this a treat.” Publishers Weekly
“Death by yard sale epitomizes the 'everyday people' humor that Andrews does so well…for readers who prefer their mysteries light...Andrews may be the next best thing to Janet Evanovich.” Rocky Mountain News
“Andrews delivers another wonderfully comic story....This is a fun read, as are all the books in the series. Andrews playfully creates laughable, wacky scenes that are the backdrop for her criminally devious plot. Settle back, dear reader and enjoy another visit to Meg's anything-but-ordinary world.” Romantic Times (starred review)
Read an Excerpt
Owls Well That Ends Well
By Donna Andrews
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2005 Donna Andrews
All rights reserved.
When the doorbell rang, I stumbled to the still-dark window and poured a bucket of water where the front porch roof would have been if it hadn't blown away in a thunderstorm two weeks ago.
"Aarrgghh!" screamed our visitor. A male voice, for a change.
Ignoring the curses from below, I poured another gallon jug of water into the bucket, added a scoop of ice cubes from the cooler, and stationed it by the window before crawling back into the sleeping bag.
"I have an idea," Michael said, poking his head out from under his pillow. "Next time let's just hire someone to do this."
"There won't be a next time," I said. "We are never, ever having another yard sale."
"Works for me," Michael said, disappearing under the pillow again.
Within thirty seconds I heard the gentle not-quite-snores that told me he was fast asleep.
A point in Michael's favor, the non-snoring. The list was long on points in Michael's favor and very short on flaws. Not that I normally keep ledgers on people, but I suspected that after several years together, Michael was tiring of my commitment phobia and working up to a serious talk about the "M" word. And no matter how much I liked the idea of spending the rest of my life with Michael, the "M" word still made me nervous. I'd begun making my mental list of his good points to defuse my admittedly irrational anxiety.
Not something I needed to worry about right now. Now, I needed to sleep. I settled back and tried to follow Michael's example. But I didn't hear a car driving away, which probably meant our caller was still lurking nearby. Perhaps even trying to sneak into the yard sale area. I wished him luck getting past our security. But odds were he'd eventually ring the doorbell again. Or another early arrival would. If only someone had warned me that no matter what start time you announce for a yard sale, the dedicated bargain hunters show up before dawn.
My family, of course, had been showing up for days. Every room that had a floor was strewn with sleeping bags, and my more adventurous cousins had strung up hammocks in some of the floorless rooms.
From downstairs in the living room, I heard the thumping of Cousin Dolores's morning aerobics and the resonant chants Cousin Rosemary emitted while performing her sun salutations. Perhaps this morning they would both keep to their own separate ends of the living room. If not, someone else would have to restore peace between East and West today.
Michael was definitely fast asleep again. What a wonderful gift, being able to fall asleep like that. I felt envious.
Just envious, the cynical side of my mind asked. Not even a teeny bit resentful? I mean, it's no wonder he can sleep so soundly. He hasn't spent every waking moment of the last two months getting ready for this weekend.
In late August, we'd bought The House — a huge Victorian pile, three stories high plus attic and basement, with three acres of land and assorted outbuildings, including a full-sized barn equipped with a resident pair of nesting owls. The only way we'd been able to afford it was to take the place "as is," which referred not only to the property's run-down condition, but also to the fact that it still contained all of the late Edwina Sprocket's possessions. And Edwina had been a hoarder. The house had been merely cluttered, the attic and basement downright scary, and the barn ... apparently when the house became overcrowded, she'd started shoving things into the barn. When she'd run out of space on the first floor of the barn, she'd placed a ramp up to the hayloft and begun pouring junk in from above. She'd filled the barn and moved on to the sheds by the time she'd finally died, leaving her various grandnieces and grandnephews with a hideous clearing-out job that they'd avoided by selling the place to us. "As is." With a clause in the contract entitling them to ten percent of whatever we made by selling the contents.
Eventually, I assumed, I would come to share Michael's conviction that this was a marvelous deal. Perhaps tomorrow evening, when the yard sale was history. Right now, I just felt tired.
I heard a car engine outside. Probably another caller heading for our doorbell.
I crawled out of the sleeping bag and stumbled over to the window. I rubbed my eyes, opened them, and found myself staring into the pale, heart-shaped face of one of our resident barn owls, sitting on its favorite perch, a dead branch in the oak tree just outside our window. Apparently I'd interrupted its bedtime snack — the tail of an unfortunate field mouse dangled from its mouth.
"Ick," I said. "Are you trying to put me off spaghetti for good?"
The owl stared at me for a few seconds, and then twitched its head. The tail disappeared.
"That branch has got to go," I said, to no one in particular. Certainly not to the owl, who wasn't likely to give up his customary feeding station simply because I objected to having our front porch whitewashed with owl droppings and sprinkled with leftover rodent parts every night. Perhaps I could delegate the branch removal to one of the many uncles and cousins who kept asking what they could do to help, assuming I found one who could be trusted with sharp implements.
Just then our latest caller rang the bell, and I emptied the bucket out the window, still staring at the owl.
No screams or curses this time. Only a very familiar voice.
"Meg? It's me, Dad."
I closed my eyes and sighed.
"I brought doughnuts."
I stuck my head out of the window, startling the owl into flight. A very wet Dad stood on our doorstep. Water beaded on his shiny bald head, and he was trying, with his chin, to brush several ice cubes off the stack of boxes in his arms.
"I'll be right down." I said.
I pulled on jeans and a sweatshirt and headed down the hall for a quick visit to the bathroom. But when I was still ten feet away, a bathrobe-clad man carrying a bulging shaving bag emerged from the last bedroom on the right, waggled his fingers at me cheerfully, and disappeared into the bathroom.
The only bathroom on this floor. Chalk it up to lack of caffeine, but I was so irritated it took me a few seconds to realize that I had no idea who the heck the man in the bathrobe was.
Yet another visiting relative, obviously. But no one I recognized. I thought I knew all the relatives who'd invited themselves to stay at the house. I racked my brain to figure out which aunt or cousin might have brought a new husband or boyfriend along.
Meanwhile, I headed for the third floor bathroom. I reminded myself that this was a temporary inconvenience. First on our long list of remodeling projects was creating a real master bedroom suite with a private connecting bath. And we weren't inviting any more houseguests until we'd solved the bathroom shortage.
Just then I heard the strains of Puccini's "Un Bel Di Verdremo" wafting down from the third floor, which meant that Mrs. Fenniman, another visiting relative, had taken possession of the bathroom for her usual long and tuneful ablutions. I went downstairs instead.
I followed voices to the kitchen. Apparently someone else had let Dad in. He'd put on water for coffee and was sitting cross-legged on the kitchen floor, sharing his doughnuts with my brother, Rob, and a petite middle-aged woman who looked vaguely familiar — although it was hard to tell, because she was wearing a set of Groucho Marx glasses, complete with the fake nose and mustache.
"Morning," I said.
The bathroom off the kitchen was, of course, occupied. But since it was only a half bath, turnover should be faster than upstairs. I stationed myself by the door.
"Morning, Meg," Dad said, raising a cloud of powdered sugar as he waved at me. "You remember your mother's cousin, Emma. From Wichita."
"Kansas?" I asked.
Emma nodded, and raised her Groucho mask briefly so I could see her face. She wasn't wet, so I deduced she'd come in with one of the family instead of ringing the bell.
"Mother said her relatives were coming from all over for the yard sale," I said. "But Kansas?"
Whatever Emma started to say was drowned out by the loud thud and subsequent howl of agony from the bathroom.CHAPTER 2
"Claude!" Cousin Emma shrieked, and leaped toward the closed door.
"I brought my medical bag," Dad said. Though semiretired, Dad kept his state medical license current so he could treat family, friends, and victims of interesting accidents — like the one happening behind the bathroom door. Though once angry curses and loud thuds replaced the howls, I deduced it wasn't a serious one.
"See if you can open the door," I called to the bathroom's unlucky occupant.
The downstairs half bath was tucked under the stairs, in a space that should have remained a closet. We called it the quarter bath. Most people avoided bumping their heads on the four-foot ceiling over the toilet, but unless they were very short, they usually hit the five and a half foot ceiling over the sink when they straightened up after washing their hands. The fact that you couldn't sit down without bumping your knees against the sink was another strike against it. No wonder Michael, at six-four, refused to use this bathroom. I had trouble enough myself at five-ten.
Rob ambled over and gave the bathroom doorknob a sharp tug, which not only opened the door but tore it completely off its hinges, revealing a small, plump, middle-aged man crouched inside.
"Oops," Rob said.
"This is my husband, Claude," Emma said.
"Are you all right?" I asked. Claude nodded. He was also wearing a Groucho mask. Was this some peculiar Kansas custom?
I noticed that Claude was clutching his trousers closed with one hand. He probably didn't have elbow room to zip them up, since the bathroom was slightly under three feet wide. I turned away to make polite conversation with Emma while Dad and Rob pried Claude out and exclaimed over his bruises.
"All the way from Kansas," I said.
"Well, we didn't come just for the yard sale," Emma said. "But since we were here ..."
"Emma does love a good yard sale," Claude said, limping over to collapse beside the doughnut box.
"Wonderful," I said.
"What should I do with this," Rob said, holding the door toward me.
"For now, shut it behind me," I said, as I ran in.
"It's going to be splendid!" I heard Dad say outside.
I looked at the bags under my eyes and my Bride of Frankenstein mane and thought maybe I should borrow Emma's Groucho disguise.
"But why in October?" I heard her saying outside. "I mean, luckily you have the weather for it this weekend, after all those weeks of rain, but isn't it rather late in the season?"
The loud flush of the ancient toilet drowned out much of Dad's reply, but I gathered that he was telling Emma and Claude about Edwina Sprocket's clutter. I washed my hands without bonking my head for a change and then, after dragging my fingers uselessly through my hair, I gave up.
"But, of course, everyone knows that a multifamily yard sale's a much bigger draw," Dad was saying as I heaved the detached door out of my way and set it carefully beside the doorway. "So a few of the family decided to join in and make it a bigger event."
"I think seventeen is more than a few, Dad," I said, plunking myself on the floor beside the doughnut boxes.
"You have seventeen other people participating?" Emma exclaimed.
"Seventeen other households," I corrected. "Heaven knows how many people that means. And that's just the family. We also have thirteen of Michael's friends and colleagues from Caerphilly College selling their stuff."
"Goodness," Emma exclaimed. "It must be enormous !"
"Two acres' worth," I said, gesturing toward the back yard.
"My," Emma said. "How exciting!"
She went over to the kitchen window and peered out.
"Now, Emma," Claude said, with a nervous laugh. "You know we can only take so much on the plane."
"There's always UPS," Emma said.
"Go out and take a closer look if you like," Dad said. "But don't go inside the fence. The security's still active."
"If it's all right," Emma said.
She hurried outside, followed by an anxious Claude.
I sighed, and rubbed my aching forehead.
"What's wrong, Meg?" Dad asked.
"I know I should be happy that she's so excited," I said. "The more people who show up with a cheerful, acquisitive attitude, the more stuff we'll unload."
"And the more money you'll make," Rob said.
"I don't care about the money," I said. "I just want all the stuff gone. And I can't believe anyone would want to buy any of that junk."
"Junk!" Dad exclaimed. "You have a wonderful collection out there. I can't understand why you're selling most of it."
"No one can," Rob said. "Just ignore her; she's been like this for weeks."
"Like what?" I asked.
"Grouchy," Rob said.
"I prefer to think that I've achieved a more enlightened and detached attitude toward material possessions," I said.
"Grouchy," Rob repeated, nodding. "You don't want her coming over to your house right now. First she starts cleaning the place up —"
"And you're complaining?" I exclaimed.
"But then she starts trying to throw your stuff away or take it for the yard sale. It's seriously annoying."
"Look, I'm sorry," I said. "I admit I've been grouchy. It's probably just that I've been spending too much time dealing with stuff. I'm down on stuff. I'll get over it after the yard sale."
"Probably," Rob said. "I remember one time I had the flu after I'd been eating too much pizza and —"
"Rob," I said. "No one wants to hear this."
"Okay," he said. "It's just that for a couple of weeks, I didn't even want to look at a pizza, much less eat one. And you know how I love pizza. You'll get over it."
Just then we heard a loud crashing noise from above.
"Someone forgot he was in a hammock?" Rob suggested.
"Sounds more like someone taking the back stairs," I said.
Sure enough, Cousin Bernie stumbled into the kitchen a few seconds later, looking indignant and slightly worse for wear.
"Did you know there are three steps missing right in the middle of those stairs?" he asked.
"Yes," I said. "That's why there's that board nailed across the doorway with the KEEP OUT sign on it."
"Someone could kill themselves on that thing," he muttered. He walked over to the quarter bath and absently reached out to yank on the nearby doorknob, bringing the loose door down on top of himself.
"I've got my bag," Dad exclaimed, as he and Rob leaped to Bernie's assistance. Dad liked nothing quite as much as the chance to patch up an accident victim, so he was looking quite cheerful.
He also looked different. Obviously I needed caffeine if it took me this long to notice that he was wearing a peculiar brown garment made of damp feathers. Though I was probably responsible for the damp part.
"What is that you're wearing?" I asked, as he and Rob struggled with the door.
"My costume," Dad said. He picked up a wad of feathers lying on the floor beside him and jammed it over his head. "I'm a great horned owl," he said, his voice slightly muffled by the plumage that hid his mouth.
Apparently Rob and Dad had been working at cross purposes. Without Dad's involvement, Rob finally heaved the door off Cousin Bernie. Bernie popped up, saw Dad, closed his eyes, and lay down again.
"Concussion," he muttered. "I must have a concussion."
"Oh, dear," Dad said. "I hope not. Open your eyes and let me see your pupils."
"Are you going straight from the sale to an early Halloween party?" I asked, as Dad fished a small light out of his bag.
"Meg!" Dad exclaimed. "The yard sale. Remember how we decided, with Halloween coming up so soon, to make it more fun by offering a discount to anyone in costume?"
"She forgot," Rob said, as Dad shone the light in Bernie's eyes.
"It's on all the posters," Dad said. "The pupils look fine. How many feathers am I holding up?"
Bernie shut his eyes again and moaned.
"Here," Rob said. He reached into a grocery bag at his side and handed me a Groucho mask.
I remembered Dad suggesting the costume discount, but I didn't recall agreeing to it. But what would be the point of complaining? It was on all the posters. Dad would know — he'd made and distributed the posters; one of the few yard sale chores I'd successfully delegated. I put on the mask. The day was bound to bring moments when I failed to keep a polite, friendly expression on my face. Maybe the mask wasn't such a bad idea after all.
Excerpted from Owls Well That Ends Well by Donna Andrews. Copyright © 2005 Donna Andrews. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
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.
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 four 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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Meg and Michael have bought this huge Victorian to make it their own. But it is stuffed to the gils - and beyond - with JUNK So they have a yard sale. But it turns into a family affair - 30 families to be exact. The quirkyness and wack-o antics of her family add to the mix when murder occurs. Lingerie, genealogy, decorating, too-few bathrooms, sheep on the loose, Spike, owls---make a highly readable addition to the series. May there be ever more.
Love all her books, they are fun and keep you guessing till the end
Reverse realky goid buy
A good addition to the series. Start with the first and enjoy them all. Fun, lightweight, summertime reading.
it was just an ok book. some parts were funny but most were not.
I love these characters!!
I loved the book. This is a series that you can really get hooked on. The characters are likable and real. I've been to a few events like Meg and Michael's that seem to gain a life of it's own. Fun read, great characters. Makes you feel like part of the family. Enjoy!!!!
This is another one of Donna Andrews Meg Langslow books.. I love them. They are so much fun. Witty, and intellectual they don't speak down to my intelligence, nor do they get so obscure that they are hard to read.
This is my favorite of this series so far! The main setting for this book is Meg and Michael's yard sale. And what a yard sale it is! This is a hilarious story of bargain hunters, owls, an aggressive dog, Sprockets, dozens upon dozens of extended family members, and of course murder. This series keeps me coming back again and again with its great cast of characters and fun times.
In Virginia, decorative blacksmith Meg Langslow and her lover Professor Michael Waterston move into the house they bought from the estate of the late Edwina Sprocket, the founder of SPOOR (Stop Poisoning Our Owls and Raptors). However, before they can reside comfortably the house needs a cleaning as the former SPOOR president was a rat pack. Meg and Michael decide to host a yard sale. Neighbors and family are encouraged to make the sale into a mega-gala by selling junk and providing special discounts for those in costume. The only rule is that the barn is off-limits........................ Chaos reigns as is typical when Meg¿s family shows up for an event. However, bedlam takes a deadly turn when slimy antique dealer Gordon McCoy enters the forbidden zone barn; someone obvious followed as the culprit uses a bookend to kill the intrusive intruder. Police Chief Henry Burke has plenty of suspects as a lot of people apparently entered the barn, but hones in on a professor at Michael¿s school. Meg thinks the cop is way off base so she begins her own loony investigation........................... This satirical amateur sleuth stars a wonderful heroine and a flock of zany relatives, friends, acquaintances, and other loons and birdbrains. The story line focuses on the nuttiness more so than the who-done-it. Fans of amusing mysteries that plays for laughs as opposed to serious drama will want to fly with Donna Andrews¿ fun tale......................... Harriet Klausner