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Swan for the Money (Meg Langslow Series #11)

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Overview

Meg Langslow's eccentric parents have a new hobby: growing roses and entering them in highly competitive shows. Dad's gardening skill and Mother's gift for selecting and arranging the blossoms should make them an unbeatable team - and Meg is relieved they've taken up such a safe, gentle hobby. She even volunteers to help when the Caerphilly Garden Club sponsors its first annual rose show. But after a few hours of dealing with her parents' competitors, Meg is worried. Rose growers are so eccentric that they make ...

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Swan for the Money (Meg Langslow Series #11)

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Overview

Meg Langslow's eccentric parents have a new hobby: growing roses and entering them in highly competitive shows. Dad's gardening skill and Mother's gift for selecting and arranging the blossoms should make them an unbeatable team - and Meg is relieved they've taken up such a safe, gentle hobby. She even volunteers to help when the Caerphilly Garden Club sponsors its first annual rose show. But after a few hours of dealing with her parents' competitors, Meg is worried. Rose growers are so eccentric that they make Meg's family seem almost normal, and so competitive that they will do nearly anything to take home the show's grand prize - making them prime suspects when Meg discovers that someone is attempting to kill the wealthy woman on whose estate the competition is being held. Of course, the intended victim had other enemies - her treatment of her farm animals had aroused the interest of several animal-welfare activists, including Meg's zoologist grandfather. Meg tries to leave the detecting to the local police and focus on protecting her parents' chances of winning the coveted Black Swan trophy, but she soon finds herself compelled to solve the crime before any more rose growers die.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

A rose show can drive a person to murder, as shown in Andrews's thorn-in-cheek 11th Meg Langslow mystery set in Caerphilly, Va. (after 2008's Six Geese A-Slaying). Meg's parents would love to snag the Winkleson Trophy for the darkest rose at the local garden club's first annual show, but they face stiff competition from Philomena Winkleson, who's hosting the event at her ritzy Raven Hill estate. Before the event, Meg's dad's roses are sabotaged, and Philomena's white purebred Maltese is kidnapped. During the mishap-filled show, Philomena annoys everyone with her obsessive must-win attitude. While exploring the estate, Meg discovers a woman stabbed in the back with a pair of secateurs (i.e., gardening shears). At first she thinks it's Philomena, but the victim is in fact another garden club member. Weeding out the murderer keeps Meg hopping. Andrews's droll humor saves the sometimes slow-moving plot. (Aug.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
Ornamental blacksmith Meg Langslow confronts a dognapping, two chomped roses, a pair of missing garden shears, some cattle rustlers and several murder attempts, one of them successful. They're all part of a crime wave engulfing the Caerphilly Rose Show in Virginia. Meg's latest comic nightmare begins with her father's discovery that two of the blooms he's bred for the Winkleson Trophy, given to the darkest rose, have been eaten by deer (perhaps lured to the site by a bottle of doe urine) and her mother's discovery that the odor of the manure he's spread on his roses has so befouled their house that the show will have to be moved to Philomena Winkleson's neighboring farm. The hastily arranged new site is home to a black-and-white menagerie-banded cows, fainting goats, extremely territorial swans-that no longer includes Mimi, the purebred Maltese that's been stolen away. Mrs. Winkleson, who seems even more demented than Meg's blood relatives, plans to keep her gates locked against intruders, although she's now expecting dozens of guests, and to ban from the show all roses that aren't black and white. Sadly, the woman in whose back Meg finds the missing shears she forged isn't Mrs. Winkleson but a volunteer mistaken for her. Shame on you, Agatha Christie fans, if you can't spot the killer long before Meg does. As usual in this hilarious series (Cockatiels at Seven, 2008, etc.), the obstacles to domestic and civil harmony are more inventive than the manufactured crises they provoke. But a good time is guaranteed for everyone except Meg.
From the Publisher
"Andrews’ Meg Langslow series just keeps getting better. Lots of cozy writers use punny titles, but Andrews backs them up with consistently hilarious story lines."—Booklist

"The rose-show world has never been more entertaining. With colorful characters, a solid mystery and laugh-out-loud moments involving territorial swans and fainting goats, readers will have a rollicking good time with the new Meg Langslow mystey."—RT Book Reviews (4 stars)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312377182
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 8/3/2010
  • Series: Meg Langslow Series , #11
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 276,938
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Donna Andrews

Donna Andrews has won the Agatha, Anthony, 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

Chapter 1

"Dreadful news!" Dad said.

He collapsed into a chair at the foot of the breakfast table, as if no longer able to bear the weight of his dire tidings, and wiped his balding head with a pocket handkerchief. The head, the handkerchief, the hand holding it, and nearly every stitch of his clothing were so encrusted with mud and garden dirt that Mother would probably have ordered him off to take a shower immediately if she weren’t so visibly curious to hear his news.

"Yes?" she said, one hand clutching her throat in a gesture that would have looked artificial and old-fashioned on anyone else. On her it merely looked elegant.

"We’ve lost Matilda," Dad said.

"Oh, no!" she exclaimed. From her expression, I could tell that she found this news genuinely heartbreaking.

Faint murmurs of sympathy arose from the dozen assorted friends and relatives seated around the table, but I could tell from their uniformly puzzled faces that they were all mentally asking the same question I was: who the heck was Matilda?

We used to have a Matilda in the clan, my Great Aunt Matilda. But she’d been dead for years, and I couldn’t recall anyone else gracing a recent arrival to the family with such an unusual name. Nor could I remember any friends or neighbors named Matilda. There was a time when I would have assumed Matilda was one of Dad’s patients, but he was semi-retired now, and his medical practice consisted mostly of those same family, friends, and neighbors, whose names I would recognize. Not a Matilda in the bunch.

"And what’s more," Dad went on, sitting up and frowning fiercely, "it was foul play. No question. I only suspected it with Adelaide, but I’m sure of it now."

"It’s the Pruitts," Mother said. "I’ve suspected them all along." Not surprising. The Pruitts were an old local family who used to own most of Caerphilly County and often behaved as if they still did. Most locals were quick to blame the Pruitts whenever anything sneaky or underhanded took place. Mother and Dad only spent weekends here in Caerphilly, in the old farm house they’d dubbed their summer cottage, but they were quickly picking up many local attitudes.

"You suspect the Pruitts of two murders?" my brother, Rob, asked. "Have you told the police?"

"Murders?" Dad echoed. "What murders?"

"This Matilda and Adelaide you’re talking about," Rob said.

Dad burst into laughter. I suddenly realized what he’d been talking about.

"It’s not murder," I said. "Because Matilda and Adelaide aren’t people, are they? They’re roses."

"Meg’s right, of course," Mother said, sounding slightly cross, as if baffled at how long it took us to figure this out.

"Sheesh." Rob returned to his food. "Roses. That’s all we talk about these days."

"Now you know how I feel," I muttered, though not loud enough for anyone but Michael to hear. For the last two months, ever since Mother recruited me to organize the Caerphilly Garden Club’s annual rose show, roses had taken over my life. Normally I’d be asleep at this hour, not trekking to my parents’ farm to collect boxes of rose show equipment and haul them to the farm whose owner, Mrs. Winkleson, was hosting tomorrow’s show. And normally the gala breakfast might have made up for the early hour, but today my stomach was wound too tight to enjoy it.

"Can’t we talk about something else for a change?" Rob was saying.

"Peonies, for example," my husband, Michael, said. "Much more practical for our yard. They don’t require a lot of cosseting, like roses, and the deer don’t seem to eat them."

I could tell from Rob’s face that he didn’t consider peonies a conversational improvement over roses, and Mother and Dad ignored the interruption.

"Meg," Mother said to me. "Your father needs coffee." She managed to give the impression that only with an instant infusion of caffeine could Dad possibly survive this new horticultural tragedy.

"I could use some, too," Michael said, and shot out to the kitchen before I could even push my chair back.

"Matilda and Adelaide were two of my most promising black roses," Dad said to the rest of the table.

"And two of our best chances for winning the Winkleson Trophy," Mother said. "Which will be given out this weekend at the Caerphilly Rose Show to the darkest rose," she added, on the off chance that any of the assembled relatives had managed to escape hearing about the Langslow house hold’s new hobby of breeding and showing roses.

"Is there a big prize?" Rob asked.

"No money involved," I said. "Just the thrill of winning."

"Big thrill," Rob said, through a mouthful of scrambled eggs.

"And a trophy," Mother added. "Quite possibly a lovely engraved Waterford bowl. That’s what I suggested." Yes, that sounded like Mother’s kind of suggestion. She was a confirmed human magpie, easily seduced by anything that glittered, and a sucker for anything that had ever come out of the Waterford factory.

"Well, if the winning rose is bred by the exhibitor, there’s always a remote possibility that a commercial rose company might want to buy it," Dad said. "Of course, that would only happen if it were a significant advance toward the creation of a truly black rose. All the big commercial breeders have their own black rose breeding programs."

"And ridiculous programs to begin with," put in my grandfather. "A genuinely black rose is a scientific impossibility."

"Oh, I hope not," put in my cousin Rose Noire, née Rosemary Keenan, to those who had known her before she’d become a purveyor of all-natural cosmetics and perfumes and adopted a name to match. "I do hope one day to greet one of my namesakes!"

She probably would. Talking to plants wasn’t even unusual in my family. Although Rose Noire was one of the few who expected the plants to answer.

"Useless things, roses," my grandfather said. "Had all the vitality bred out of them, so the poor things can barely survive without massive applications of chemicals all the time. Environmentally unsound." A typical reaction from my grandfather, Dr. Montgomery Blake, the world famous zoologist and environmental activist. Of course, he could merely be vexed that Dad’s rose growing was preventing him from working full-time on the Blake Foundation’s latest animal welfare campaigns, whatever they were.

"Getting back to Matilda and Deirdre—" I said.

"Adelaide," Dad corrected.

"Sorry," I said. "It’s no wonder I didn’t recognize the names— last time I got an update on your rose-breeding program, you were just referring to them by numbers."

"But that’s so dehumanizing!" Rose Noire exclaimed.

"Don’t you mean deflowering?" Rob asked, with a snigger.

"How can you expect a living creature to thrive when all it has is a number, not a name?" Rose Noire went on.

"That’s why we decided to name them," Mother said.

"Unofficially, of course," Dad added. "I haven’t yet registered them with the ARS. Officially, Matilda is L2005-0013."

"But we’re going to name them all after family members," Mother said.

"No shortage of names there," Dr. Blake muttered. He was still getting used to the fact that when he claimed Dad as his long-lost son, he’d found himself allied by marriage with Mother’s family, the Hollingsworths, whose numbers exceeded the population of some small countries.

"I hope you stick to dead relatives," Michael said, as he emerged from the kitchen with a pot of coffee. "Otherwise we’ll have no end of confusion. And imagine if it got around the county that Rose Noire was suffering from black spot disease, or that Rob had thrips."

"What are thrips?" Rob asked, looking alarmed.

"Getting back to Matilda and Adelaide," I repeated, "what happened to them, and what makes you think it was foul play?"

"They were eaten," Dad said. "Undoubtedly by marauding deer. And I found this in some bushes nearby."

He held up a small brown glass bottle with a neatly printed label proclaiming that it contained "100 percent Doe Urine."

"James!" Mother said. "At the breakfast table?"

"Someone obviously sprinkled this near Matilda," Dad said. He tried to pocket the bottle discreetly, out of deference to Mother’s sensibilities, but Dr. Blake held out his hand for it. "In fact, they probably sprinkled the stuff in a path leading from the woods straight to Matilda."

"Yuck," Rob said, making a face. "If I were a deer, I’d steer clear of roses some other deer had already peed on."

"But you’re not a deer," my grandfather said. "To a deer, especially a male, doe urine would be an irresistible lure. Hunters have used deer urine for centuries to cover up their human scent and attract deer to their hunting areas. It’s particularly effective if the urine is—"

"Dr. Blake!" Mother exclaimed. I wasn’t sure whether she was objecting to his words or to the fact that he had opened the bottle and was sniffing it curiously.

"So hunters use the stuff," I said. "You’re sure that bottle wasn’t just discarded by some passing hunters?"

"We hadn’t given anyone permission to hunt our land," Mother said.

It took a few seconds for the grammatical implications to sink in— the fact that she said "hadn’t" rather than "haven’t." Did her use of the pluperfect tense mean that now, after Matilda’s demise, they had given hunting rights to someone? But by the time that thought struck me, Mother and Dad were deep in a discussion of which surviving black roses were likely to produce a prize-worthy bloom by Saturday’s contest. Everybody else appeared to be listening attentively, or as attentively as possible while consuming vast quantities of bacon, sausage, country ham, French toast, waffles, pancakes, cinnamon toast, croissants, and fresh fruit. Were the rest of the family really that interested in rose culture, or did they just figure they’d better come up to speed on the subject in self defense?

"Meg," Dad said, "I’m leaving this in your hands."

He gestured to my grandfather, who ceremoniously handed me the empty doe urine bottle.

"Yuck," I said, dropping the thing on the table. I wasn’t normally squeamish, but my stomach rose at the thought of the little bottle’s former contents. "What in the world to you expect me to do with it?"

"Find out who used it on Matilda," Dad said. "And help me figure out how to stop it. I’m counting on you!"

Excerpted from Swan for the Money by Donna Andrews.

Copyright 2009 by Donna Andrews.

Published in August 2009 by Minotaur Books.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 32 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 33 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2014

    Good comfort e.g. cozy regional series but falters

    Is not as amusing as usual perhaps a few too many theme muddles as black swans fainting goats rose show black roses missing dog (never found) possible p.g. but putting herself at risk absent husband and new grandfather that doesnt seem to be part of the going ons plus a little people staff in a house with all black kitchen and baths. Series are diffcult to maintain at the same level of the fourth and fifth. Mom

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2013

    Excellent

    A great read for those who like a mystery with a light heated application. The story is very well written. In fact I have read the whole series, each book was very funny, featuring unlikely characters both humans, animals or birds.

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  • Posted February 14, 2011

    Meg pregnant!!! Oh Brother.

    Good not great. Wished for more prenancy moments, (mood swings, cravings, etc.) Rob is missed.

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  • Posted February 20, 2010

    I enjoy Donna Andrews series.

    Her books are always fun and fast paced.

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  • Posted February 6, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Another Wonderful Adventure with the Langslow Family

    The next installment in the Meg & Michael's story is great; always fun to see what everyone is up to. Like the way characters from past books get woven into the new story.

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  • Posted September 21, 2009

    Swan for the Money

    I just love Donna Andrews. I read her first book this summer and just had to read the rest. The Swan for the money is not as funny as the first, but I really enjoyed it. You never know what will happen. Her family is just as crazy as mine. A very enjoyable read.

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  • Posted September 12, 2009

    Andrews has done it again

    I always look forward to the next Meg Langslow adventure and this was not a disapointment. Bring on the next in the series!

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  • Posted September 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Love 'em!

    I love all Donna Andrews' books.

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  • Posted September 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    cozy series new to me....

    Swan for the Money is the 11th novel in the Meg Langslow series, but was a first for me.

    Meg has volunteered to organize the local competitive rose show - her parent's new hobby. It's being held on the estate of Mrs. Winkleson. Now, Mrs. Winkleson hasn't ingratiated herself with the others in the group. Between her insistence that everything on her estate be black, grey or white - including the livestock - and the growing (pun intended!) suspicion that her rose propogation techniques may not be on the up and up, she is causing some headaches. Meg's grandfather and his cronies are skulking about the estate as well, looking for animal rights abuses among those colour coordinated animals. And when a body is found on the grounds of the estate......

    Donna Andrews has created a wonderfully warm, cozy mystery series. No overt violence, lots of humour and and an eclectic group of characters. There is such a mix of ages in the characters that this series would appeal to a variety of ages. Some of the characters are over the top (the murder victim in this case) but they're great fun to read. It took me a couple of chapters to get up to speed with who's who, but after that it was no problem. I found the descriptions of the competitors and the goings on at the rose show quite funny, reminding me of the mockumentary Best in Show that spoofed dog shows. Meg herself is a great recurring vehicle - an amateur sleuth who can't stop herself from helping solve the mysteries that she stumbles into.

    There's no great mystery as to whodunit, but the read itself is the most enjoyable part, not the solving.

    Fans of any of the themed series out there, such as Diane Mott Davidson, Carolyn Haines or Joanne Fluke would enjoy this series.

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  • Posted June 4, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    comedic amateur sleuth

    For once, Meg Langslow believes her parents have taken up a safe hobby that could not harm anyone. They are growing roses especially working on hybrids with a hope of creating a black version. Elated with their new pastime that is so safe, Meg agrees to organize the Caerphilly Garden Club first annual rose show.

    The event is being held on the Winkleson estate because wealthy, influential but mean spirited Mrs. Winkleson wanted a home court advantage with everyone owing her favors and those who do not she bullies so she can win the Black Sawn Trophy. Meg goes to see the estate's beautiful fenced in rose garden, but instead of beautiful blooming flowers, she finds a dead female contestant. Soon afterward, the hostess becomes unconscious after taking a drink. It looks like someone was trying to kill her using cyanide. Meg as usual snoops, but quickly finds everyone including servants, but especially the club members have strong motives to kill Mrs. Wilkerson.

    Donna Andrews is highly regarded for her comedic often slapstick amateur sleuths (see SIX GEESE A-SLAYING); her latest is once again a hilarious whodunit as eccentricity, including Meg's parents, runs rampart throughout the plot. The contestants are to say the least an unconventional crowd of oddballs, misfits, geeks, and hermits in which Ms. Andrews uses hyperbole to emphasis the diverse differences. Between protecting her out of control parents and dealing with belligerent club members, harried servants and sinister killer swans, Meg has her work cut out solving the rose garden murder.

    Harriet Klausner

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted September 12, 2011

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