Murder With Peacocks
by Donna Andrews
(St. Martins, $23.95, G) ISBN 0-312-19929-5
****
Imagine being a bridesmaid three times in one summer, having to wear three eye-popping bridesmaid dresses, and implementing most of the wedding plans. Meg Langslow needed to accomplish these feats beginning with her best friend Eileen's wedding, continuing with her brother Rob's wedding to Suzanne, and finishing with her Mother's second wedding (after the recent divorce from her father). By the end of the summer, Meg felt the weight of the old saying, "Always a bridesmaid" and firmly announced, "Never a bride!"

New author, Donna Andrews, has concocted a comical and entertaining set of events, an utterly odious victim and villain, and a cast of truly delectable characters.

Meg is an ironsmith by vocation, but managing details and people seems to be her avocation. These items range from having to buy or rent peacocks for Suzanne's wedding to figuring out how the bridesmaids' hooped gowns would fit through the church doors. In order to keep all the brides and the wedding details in order, she needs to live out of her "notebook-that-tells-her-when-to-breathe."

For Eileen's wedding, Meg warns her that the pseudo-medieval style dresses of velvet she has chosen are beautiful, but impractical, because the church isn't air-conditioned. She is able to squash Eileen's suggestion of having the guests procure and wear Renaissance costumes to match the wedding party.

Meg's unpredictable mother has surprises of her own, including keeping Meg's bridesmaid dress a secret, and re-decorating the living room at the last moment. Meg's biggest challenge to date is managing her mother, because the more idle time her mother has, the more jobs she assigns to others, including Meg.

As if wedding planning isn't enough for Meg to stress out about, she has two unsolicited suitors following her around, serenading her, and generally driving her crazy. Her mother thinks they are sweet and keeps inviting them to events, her father helps her out by giving them errands to perform, and Meg becomes adept at avoiding them. Michael, the immensely attractive, new man in town, has taken over the bridal shop for the summer and is working closely with her. Unfortunately, if the town gossipmongers are to be believed, he is not interested in women.

Just when things seems to be going well, Jane Grover, the late sister-in-law of her future stepfather turns up dead. Meg's father, a kindly doctor whose hobbies include reading mystery novels and growing poisonous plants, decides the victim has been murdered, and enlists the family to investigate. The more they learn, the more accidents or murder attempts occur to threaten both Meg and her father.

Donna Andrews has assembled a wholly captivating family in Murder with Peacocks. Meg's mother, with her soft heart and will of iron, Meg's young nephew Eric and his pet duck, her absent-minded brother Rob, and her sensible sister Pamela are family anyone would like to claim as their own. Her father is especially endearing, and his medical and scientific knowledge provides background and depth to the investigation. Perhaps the book's greatest moment, though, involves one of the most quintessentially romantic gestures to win a lady's heart!

All in all, this book is a showcase for a fascinating family and their friends with all their foibles, frailties, and immense sense of fun.

--Monica Pope


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