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The Penguin Who Knew Too Much (Meg Langslow Series #8)

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Overview

Hold on to your hats, everybody! Donna Andrews is taking us on another ride into the wonderful world of Meg Langslow, a world filled with laughter as well as the knotty problems Meg always seems to encounter and---somehow---solve.

Okay, maybe there are people in Antarctica with penguins in their basements, but in Virginia? Only Meg’s dad could manage that one. A body down ...
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The Penguin Who Knew Too Much (Meg Langslow Series #8)

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Overview

Hold on to your hats, everybody! Donna Andrews is taking us on another ride into the wonderful world of Meg Langslow, a world filled with laughter as well as the knotty problems Meg always seems to encounter and---somehow---solve.

Okay, maybe there are people in Antarctica with penguins in their basements, but in Virginia? Only Meg’s dad could manage that one. A body down there---well, that’s somewhat more likely.

It turns out that explaining the penguins’ presence is easy---Meg’s dad volunteered to take care of the birds until the future of the bankrupt local zoo could be determined. But identifying the body in the basement proves a harder task---could it be, as Meg fears, that of the vanished zoo owner?

In the small southern town of Caerphilly, rumors fly quickly, and all the other well-meaning citizens who have agreed to take in zoo animals are now worried that they might be stuck with their guests indefinitely. So when Meg’s dad generously offers to help out anyone who can no longer care for their four-legged charges, a parade of wild creatures begins to make Meg and Michael’s newly renovated house look more like Noah’s ark.

Meg and Michael have been planning to elope in order to avoid the elaborate wedding their mothers have begun to organize---a plan that’s threatened by both the murder investigation and the carnival of animals. The only way to set things right, Meg decides, is to identify both their uninvited visitor and the killer who put him in their basement.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Deliciously daffy.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Andrews always leavens the mayhem with laughs. So march yourself down to the bookstore or library and check out The Penguin Who Knew Too Much.”—Richmond Times-Dispatch (Virginia)

“Andrews’ eighth Meg-centric mystery moves along like the best beach reads.”—Entertainment Weekly

“If you long for more ‘fun’ mysteries, à la Janet Evanovich, you’ll love Donna Andrews’s Meg Langslow series.”—The Charlotte Observer

“The levelheaded, unflappable Meg takes it all in stride…This eighth cozy in the series makes the most of humorous situations, zany relatives, and lovable characters.”—Booklist

“A classic whodunit…wraps suspense, humor, and a screwball cast of characters into a mystery novel with stand-up quality.”—About.com

“Always a treat.”—Romantic Times BOOKreviews

“Andrews has mastered the art of writing farce with style and wit, although she sometimes goes over the top—literally, in a scene with sloths swinging from chandeliers.”—Mystery Scene

Publishers Weekly

In Agatha-winner Andrews's deliciously daffy eighth Meg Langslow mystery (after 2006's No Nest for the Wicket), blacksmith Meg and her fiancé, Michael, are at last moving into their new house in Caerphilly, Va., assisted (and occasionally hindered) by Meg's vast clan of maternal relations. Then Meg's dad announces that, while digging a pool in the new house's basement for penguins fostered from a bankrupt local zoo, he has discovered a dead body. As the police investigate, more fostered animals arrive at Meg's place, and when the zoo's missing owner turns out to be the corpse, Meg has to sort out the mystery, along with her plans to elope and the problems relating to various animals roaming around her property. As usual, Meg takes the familial eccentricities in stride while coping with one crisis after another. Andrews demonstrates her absolute mastery of the comedic mystery, deftly balancing outrageously funny scenes with well-paced suspense. Author tour. (Aug.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
Not just penguins, but llamas, camels, hyenas, snakes, lemurs, wolves, sheep, Lola the bobcat and some passing strange human fauna disrupt Meg Langslow's housewarming. What would make you even less happy than finding a flock of penguins in the basement of the farmhouse you and your fiance had expensively restored? Finding a dead body-especially if it's the body of J. Patrick Lanahan, the improvident zookeeper who'd pressed Meg's endlessly obliging father to babysit the Caerphilly (Va.) Zoo's tenants until the zoo emerged from bankruptcy. Now someone armed with a crossbow has ended Lanahan's financial woes and brought Meg (No Nest for the Wicket, 2006, etc.) a Noah's Arkload of troubles. Quite apart from all the problems her instant zoo poses, Meg has to deal with an acting Medical Examiner who's too claustrophobic to go down to her basement; a world-famous naturalist who won't stop sniffing around her family; a pair of spade-toting brothers convinced their great-uncle's buried on her farm; an animal-rights activist whose group, Save Our Beasts, still pickets the Caerphilly Zoo even though no one's there; and a farm-goods saleswoman determined to harvest Meg's copious new supply of manure for her ZooperPoop! It's no wonder that when the hard-used heroine finally confronts the killer, he responds testily, "There's no need to snap at me."Andrews continues her mission to turn all Meg's most memorable life-cycle events into bedlam-laced farce. Agent: Ellen Geiger/Frances Goldin Literary Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312997922
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/2008
  • Series: Meg Langslow Series , #8
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 276,920
  • Product dimensions: 4.20 (w) x 6.68 (h) x 0.95 (d)

Meet the Author

Donna Andrews

Donna Andrews's first mystery, Murder with Peacocks, won the Agatha, Anthony, and Barry awards, a Romantic Times award for best first novel, and a Lefty for funniest mystery. She spends her free time gardening at her home in Reston, Virginia.

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Read an Excerpt

The Penguin Who Knew Too Much

A Meg Langslow Mystery
By Andrews, Donna

St. Martin's Minotaur

Copyright © 2007 Andrews, Donna
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780312329426

Chapter 1 “Meg! Guess what I found in your basement?” I looked up from the box I was unpacking to see Dad standing in the basement doorway, his round face shining with excitement. “A body?” An unlikely guess, but Dad was a big mystery buff—perhaps if I amused him, he’d stop playing guessing games on moving day. “Oh, rats—you already knew? Well, how soon will the police get here? I need to move the penguins—we don’t want them any more upset than they already are.” He disappeared down the basement stairs without waiting for an answer. I abandoned my unpacking to call after him. “Dad? I was joking. Did you really find a body? And why are there penguins in our basement? Dad!” No answer. Should I go down to see what was happening, or call the police? Damn! I closed my eyes and counted to ten. Normally counting to ten calmed me, but today it just gave me time to realize how much more could go wrong elsewhere in the house. On cue, I heard the crash of something breaking, followed by a sheepish “Oops!” from my brother, Rob, in the front hall. In the living room, Mother ordered a brace of cousins to move thesofa to yet another location. She’d been at it for an hour, and so far only three pieces of furniture had made it from the truck to the house. In the dining room, Mrs. Fenniman, Mother’s distant cousin and closest ally, was singing an Italian aria, changing pitch every dozen notes, which meant she’d had a few martinis already and we’d have to redo the walls after she’d painted them. I’d only reached seven when Rob interrupted me. “Meg? You know that big cut-glass punch bowl? Is that a particular favorite of yours?” “Don’t you mean was it a particular favorite?” I asked as I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket. “And no, but Mother was quite fond of it, so see if you can sweep up the pieces before she notices. Broom’s over there.” “Right-o.” I dialed 911.
I wasn’t sure the situation quite warranted 911, but I hadn’t memorized the nonemergency number for the Caerphilly Police Department and I had no idea which box contained the phone book. “Hello—Debbie Anne?” I said when the dispatcher answered. “This is Meg Langslow.” “Meg! How’s the move-in going? And what’s the problem?” “Slowly. And the problem is that Dad says he’s found a body in the basement.” “Oh, Lord,” Rob said. He stopped in the doorway, broom and dustpan in hand, the better to eavesdrop. “Is he serious?” Debbie Anne asked after a moment. “I mean, if it’s just some kind of practical joke—” “He sounded serious,” I said. “And I thought I should call you first instead of wasting time going to look myself, and possibly disturbing a crime scene.” “I’ll tell Chief Burke you said so. If it turns out to be some kind of mix-up . . .” Her voice trailed off. I knew what she was thinking. Quite apart from the major-league practical jokers in my family, there was Dad, with his well-known mystery obsession. “If it’s a mix-up, I’ll call back right away,” I said, and hung up. “Did he really find a body?” Rob asked. “So he says.” “Don’t you think you should have checked before calling the cops?” “If he was pulling my leg, I’ll let him explain it to Chief Burke.” “I still think you should check for yourself.” “I’m going to—want to come?” Rob, who fainted at the mere idea of blood, shook his head and hurried back to the hall. I took the stairs to the basement. The smell hit me first. Not the rank smell of a decaying body or the tang of newly spilled blood, both of which I’d had a chance to experience while tagging along after Dad—less while he pursued his medical practice, of course, than during his repeated attempts to involve himself in murder investigations, like the protagonists of the mystery books he read by the dozen. No, this smell was a cross between a barn in dire need of cleaning and a fish market that had lost power for a few days. I deduced that I was smelling penguins. The stench wafted from the unfinished, far end of the basement, the part under the library wing, where the concrete floor gave way to packed dirt. I also heard muted honking and trilling noises. I followed my nose and ears. I should have brought a flashlight.
This side of the basement was not only unfinished, it was unelectrified. And to get to the far end, where Dad was, I had to traverse a part near the stairs that the pack rat former owner had turned into a perfect warren of ramshackle storage rooms. “Chief Burke? Is that you?” Dad appeared around a corner, carrying a flashlight. “He’s on his way,” I said. “Where’s the body?” “This way!” Dad was grinning with obvious delight at showing off the house’s exciting new feature. Chapter 2 Gazing at the hole, I felt slightly reassured. Surely, if the body had been buried, it would turn out to be an old one after all. Little more than a skeleton. “Yes,” Dad said. “And not even buried very deep. It was remarkably easy to uncover—what were they thinking?” He shook his head solemnly, as if to express his dismay at the shoddy professional habits of the modern criminal class. Or perhaps at Michael’s and my shoddy housekeeping skills. “It’s not as if we’re in the habit of tilling the soil down here,” I said. “Did you suspect it was here, or did you have some other good reason for digging a hole in the middle of our basement floor?” “For the penguins,” Dad said. “I knew they’d be much happier with someplace to swim. So I was going to put in a pond—one of those preformed plastic ones.” “Of course. A pond,” I said. It made sense coming from Dad, who had always had a fascination with water features. He probably loved having the penguins as an excuse. “But why not outside?” “They’re penguins,” he exclaimed. “You can’t expect them to stay outside in the heat of a Virginia summer! In here, we can give them some air-conditioning.” It would be a neat trick, with this end of the basement not even electrified—I could already see the giant industrial extension cords snaking through the house. And I shuddered to think what it would do to our electric bill. “I started digging yesterday,” he went on. “But then I realized that I didn’t know how big a hole I needed. So I went to Flugleman’s garden store last night and got the precise dimensions. And almost as soon as I started work this morning—voilà!” He pointed to his excavation.
I grabbed one of the overhead lanterns, picked my way carefully to the edge of the hole, and peered in. I didn’t exactly see a body—more like a hand sticking up by itself out of the dirt. But even though I had refused to follow in Dad’s footsteps, becoming a blacksmith instead of a doctor, I had enough grasp of basic human anatomy to deduce that if the hand wasn’t still attached to a body, it had been at one point. Probably, from the size of it, a full-grown male body. Though hands could fool you. I glanced down at my own, which were largish for a woman’s hands. Of course, at five feet, ten inches, so was the rest of me. And my work as a blacksmith wasn’t exactly conducive to maintaining elegant feminine hands. Mother had long since given up chiding me for ruining them at the forge. Even Michael didn’t pretend to find my hands beautiful, but he had pronounced them capable-looking, and made it sound like a higher compliment. One of his many positive traits. Our subterranean visitor’s hand, like mine, looked well used rather than well cared for. Capable. On the large side. And hairier than most women’s hands. So judging from the hand, our uninvited visitor was male. And either he worked with his hands, as I did, or he had done something useful with them in his off-hours. And he probably hadn’t been buried beneath the basement floor all that long, I realized, with a sinking feeling. Now that I was closer, I could smell decay, even over the penguin poop. If he’d been there since the late Mrs. Sprocket owned the house, I wouldn’t have smelled anything at all. Or seen enough of him to make all these deductions. “How recently did he die?” I asked. “Or can you tell from just the hand?” “Longer than a day,” Dad said. “Or decomposition wouldn’t be detectable. And there’s no rigor, so presumably it has worn off. But not much longer.” “So we’re talking days, not months or years, right?” “Of course,” Dad said. “You could figure that out yourself.” “I hoped I was wrong,” I said. “It would be so much easier if we could blame him on the previous owner. Anyway—ow!” Someone—or something—had goosed me. I stumbled forward, barely avoiding the hand. My foot landed on a soft, warm body that squealed and wriggled frantically out from under me, almost toppling me over onto the hand. I glanced around to see a throng of penguins milling about us. “Oh, dear, they’re loose again,” Dad said. “There really isn’t any place down here that will hold them. Help me take them outside, before they spoil the crime scene.” “A little too late to worry about that,” I said. The penguins had discovered the hand and were poking and nibbling at it with their beaks, though luckily they hadn’t decided that it was edible. “Grab a fish and lure them outside,” Dad said, taking a bucket down from an overhead hook and handing it to me. “Yuck,” I said, but I followed orders.
I grabbed something cold and slimy from the bucket and headed for the other end of the room, where concrete steps led to a set of old-fashioned slanted metal doors that provided an outlet to the yard. Behind me, I could hear Dad gently shooing the penguins. I barely had time to swing open one side of the door and scramble out before they caught up, nearly knocking me down in their eagerness to get to the fish. I threw the fish into the yard, tossed a few more after it, and then looked around for a place to stow the penguins before they wandered off to visit the neighbors. The duck pen. It wasn’t as if our resident duck and her adopted ducklings spent much time in it. I opened the gate, dumped most of the remaining chum at the far end, then stood waving a fish as a lure until I had all the penguins inside. Dad shut the gate behind them, and I climbed over the fence to freedom, or at least the absence of penguins underfoot. “Good thinking!” Dad said as he put one foot up on a rail and leaned his elbows on the top of the fence. The veteran penguin wrangler, resting after a successful roundup. “That should take care of them for the time being.” “For the time being,” I repeated. “At least until you can take them back where they belong. And just where is that, anyway? Not in our basement, I assure you.” “The Caerphilly Zoo,” Dad said. He had pulled out his handkerchief and was mopping his face and the shiny expanse of his bald head. “Patrick asked me to foster them for a while.” “Patrick?” “Patrick Lanahan. The zoo’s owner. It’s just until he gets through this bad patch he’s having.” “What kind of a bad patch?” I asked. In our family, “bad patch” was a convenient euphemism. It could cover anything from brief cash-flow problems or minor marital discord up to a felony conviction with a sentence of twenty to life. “Only temporary, of course,” Dad said. “Of course. What’s wrong down at the zoo?” “The bank was going to put a lien on the property. And if he hadn’t moved the animals out, the bank might have seized them, too.” “Oh, so these might even be hot penguins,” I said. “Great.” “Don’t be silly, Meg,” Dad said. “The bank didn’t want to seize the penguins. What on earth would they do with them if they did?
They gave Patrick plenty of time to foster out all the animals before they filed the lien.” “To foster out all the animals? Dad, how many animals did you take, anyway?”  “Only the penguins,” Dad said, as if hurt by my distrust. “Ah. Only the penguins,” I repeated. Suddenly the throng of black-and-white forms busily exploring the duck pen for escape routes looked small and relatively harmless. I tried to remember what other animals they’d had at the zoo. Nothing particu- larly dangerous, I hoped. Still, penguins were better than hyenas, weren’t they? And hadn’t the zoo had at least one elderly, ill-tempered bobcat? “So you’re stuck with the penguins until Patrick can pay his bills?” “Just until he finishes negotiating an agreement with a new sponsor,” Dad said. “Which should be any day now.” He was looking at the empty fish bucket with a slight frown. “Remarkable, how much fish they eat,” he said. He glanced at the penguins, then back at the bucket, and sighed. “Dad, just how long have you had these penguins?” “Only two weeks.” “They haven’t been in the basement for two weeks, have they?” I asked. I thought I’d have noticed penguins, but perhaps the preparations for the move had made me less observant than usual. “Oh, no—I’ve been keeping them over at the farmhouse.” Although he and Mother still lived in Yorktown, about an hour to the south, a few months earlier he’d bought the farm adjacent to our new house, partly to save it from development and partly so they could come up to Caerphilly whenever they felt like meddling. “Why couldn’t they just stay there?” I asked. “With your mother coming up today? I didn’t think she’d be pleased.” “And you thought I would?” “I knew you’d cope better than your mother.” “You mean you knew I’d complain less.” “Oh, look! There’s Chief Burke!” As the chief’s car pulled up, Dad hurried out to meet him, visibly relieved that something had interrupted my line of questioning. “Glad to see you!” Dad exclaimed, reaching to shake the chief’s hand as he stepped out of the patrol car. “Though I’m sorry it had to be under these circumstances.” “Just what are the circumstances?” the chief asked. His normally cheerful brown face wore a faint frown. “Debbie Anne had some fool story about you finding a body in the basement.” “Yes—extraordinary, isn’t it?” Dad said. “Let me show you.” He made a dash toward the side yard, where the battered metal cellar doors were located. The chief and I followed more slowly, and saw Dad’s head disappear into the opening just as we turned the corner of the house.
The chief looked at me. “You’ve seen this body?” he asked. “Yes. Part of it anyway—the hand. The rest’s still buried.” “Lord,” the chief said. “And here I was hoping for a quiet Memorial Day weekend.” He walked over to the basement doors and frowned at them for a few moments. Since the doors weren’t doing anything to merit disapproval, I suspected that he wasn’t really all that keen on going inside. I glanced down through the doors myself and could see why. Now that my eyes were used to the bright sunlight outside, I could see little more than a few steep steps disappearing into the gloom. “Chief?” Dad called. “Are you coming?” “Coming,” the chief called. “I don’t see what he’s in such an all-fired hurry about,” he grumbled to me. “Body’s not going anywhere, is it?” “You know how excited he gets about murders.” The chief only rolled his eyes. Then he put one foot carefully on the first step, and I watched his head drop lower with each step until it vanished into the basement. Should I follow, or stay outside to keep an eye on the penguins? Copyright © 2007 by Donna Andrews. All rights reserved. 
 

Continues...

Excerpted from The Penguin Who Knew Too Much by Andrews, Donna Copyright © 2007 by Andrews, Donna. Excerpted by permission.
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.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 30 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 30 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2014

    Interesting

    Meg Langslow continues to teach us about birds of all sorts, as well as writing an enjoyable and interesting mystery. The Penguin Who Knew Too Much was fun to read and it was interesting for me to learn a bit about Penguins.

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  • Posted September 23, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I have loved all her books up to this one (I am reading in order

    I have loved all her books up to this one (I am reading in order from #1). This book deals with a topic I can't personally tolerate and that is a form of animal cruelty. I won't go in to the details - suffice it to say I skipped over the parts that dealt with realities of that subject matter - you can tell it's coming and you can skip ahead a page or two and get by it. The rest of the book is typical lunacy abetted by the entire small zoo population being dropped off at Meg & Michael's new home in the Country. If you're waiting for Michael & Meg to get married and think this is the book where they finally tie the knot - it isn't. Close but no cigar - but then again maybe we aren't invited to the wedding.........

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  • Posted March 15, 2012

    Very definitely recommend

    This is the first one of the Meg Lanslow series I read--bought it as a bargain book because I'm a penguin lover. After I read this one I went back and bought all the books in this series and started with #1, going right through to #13---am now waiting for #14 that I pre-ordered. I have since passed them on to my daughter since I was able to purchase them again for my Nook--if that had not been possible I would not have passed them on.

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  • Posted February 14, 2011

    Better than Wickets.

    Wickets was a let down. Andrews picks back up with Penguin.

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  • Posted September 19, 2009

    The Penguin Who Knew Too Much

    This was a fun book to read.. It was informational about zoos and zoo animals...It is a humorous mystery....Unusual format...

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  • Posted September 14, 2009

    Quite entertaining

    I've read one or two other books by Ms. Andrews, and have enjoyed each of them for their offbeat characters and situations. Love the extended family on the scene! Even laughed out loud while reading several sections.

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  • Posted September 5, 2009

    The Penguin Who Knew Too Much

    Silly, funny, weird characters -- good escape reading. With a huge cast of offbeat relatives, there is total confusion, and some good laughs-out-loud.

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  • Posted August 22, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    The poerfect book for a rainy day

    This was entertaining and held my interest but not a deep book--light and entertaining.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2009

    Ugh!

    In a word - boring! I bought this as a bargain book and got what I paid for.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    the best humor-mystery series on the market today

    Meg Langslow and her fiancé Michael Waterston are moving into their renovated home in Caerphilly, Virginia with the help (an extremely loose use of the word help that is) of her dad and her relatives from mom¿s side. Dad suddenly leaves the basement to inform his daughter that he ran into a slight problem while digging a swimming hole for the penguins he adopted from a bankrupt zoo he dug up a corpse.----------- The police investigate, but struggle with identifying the John Doe. The assumption made by the townsfolk and fostered by Meg¿s family is that the deceased is the bankrupt zoo's missing owner. Thus those who were fostering animals no longer want them on their property so they drop them off at Meg¿s place. Meg and Michael discuss eloping early to elude the menagerie that is the two legged beasts who share her DNA. However, first there is a question of who killed and interred the body in their basement.-------------- This jocular whodunit is a terrific tale that will leave the audience laughing especially with some outrageous slapstick yet the humor remains inside a strong mystery. The incredibly calm Meg does not blink as animals run amok and her family is even more out of control. Fans will appreciate her calm juggling act as Donna Andrews provides a great entry in what may be the best humor-mystery series on the market today.--------------------------- Harriet Klausner

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    Posted September 20, 2009

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