Swan for the Money (Meg Langslow Series #11)
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Swan for the Money (Meg Langslow Series #11)

4.1 34
by Donna Andrews

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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

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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 sees trouble...

Rose growers are so cut-throat that they will do nearly anything to win the Black Swan trophy—making them all prime suspects when Meg discovers that someone is attempting to kill the wealthy woman on whose estate the competition is being held. Meg tries to leave the detecting to the local police and focus on the competition. But she just can't help getting her hands dirty when lives are at stake…

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“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)

“Fun, lively, charming.” —Publishers Weekly on No Nest for the Wicket

“Andrews strikes just the right balance between comedy and suspense to keep the reader laughing and on the edge of one's seat...Fans of this series will no doubt enjoy this installment, while new readers...will be headed to the bookstore for the earlier books.” —Romantic Times BOOKreviews (4 stars)

“Any day when I start reading about Meg is cause for delight. Ending the book makes me yearn for more than one per year. Hint.” —Deadly Pleasures on No Nest for the Wicket

“As usual, Andrews is a reliable source for those who like their murder with plenty of mayhem.” —Kirkus Reviews on No Nest for the Wicket

“Andrews's talent for the lovably loony makes this series a winner; to miss it would be a cardinal sin.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch on No Nest for the Wicket

“A loony, utterly delightful affair.” —Booklist on Owls Well that Ends Well

“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 on Owls Well that Ends Well

“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 on Owls Well that Ends Well

“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) on Owls Well that Ends Well

“Laughter, more laughter, we need laughter, so Donna Andrews is giving us We'll Always Have Parrots...to help us survive February.” —Washington Times on We'll Always Have Parrots

“Perfectly showcases Donna Andrews' gift for deadpan comedy.” —Denver Post on We'll Always Have Parrots

“Always heavy on the humor, Andrews' most recent Meg Langslow outing is her most over-the-top adventure to date.” —Booklist on We'll Always Have Parrots

“I can't say enough good things about this series, and this entry in it.” —Deadly Pleasures on We'll Always Have Parrots

“Hilarious...another winner...keeps you turning pages.” —Mystery Lovers News on We'll Always Have Parrots

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.

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Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Meg Langslow Series, #11
Edition description:
First Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.10(d)

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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Meet the Author

Donna Andrews is the author of the Meg Langslow mysteries, including Stork Raving Mad and Murder with Peacocks. 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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Swan for the Money (Meg Langslow Series #11) 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Plenty of fun, murder, and mayhem provided by the Hollingsworth family and their animals. We learn about competitive rose shows, black and white designer livestock and the future hope of Meg and Michael to add just a bit more chaos in the future. The action moves along briskly and the mysteries are solved without too many 'hand-of-God' moments. The family antics move the story along, but we get to see Meg's character grow a little more as she and her mother relate with more tenderness than rancor. This is my third favorite after 'Owl's Well That Ends Well' and 'Crouching Buzzard, Leaping Loon.'
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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 More than 1 year ago
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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Stoff More than 1 year ago
Good not great. Wished for more prenancy moments, (mood swings, cravings, etc.) Rob is missed.
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bkrJK More than 1 year ago
Her books are always fun and fast paced.