Cover Image: The Gift of the Magpie

The Gift of the Magpie

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A great little cozy mystery to get you in the mood for the season. This is book 28 in the series but I thought it could be read as a stand alone. A small town full of quirky characters, a curmudgeon who needs some help and a mystery that needs to be solved. The team of Helpings Hands volunteers come to the rescue. Lots of adventures ensue! Murder, burglary, greed, missing magpies, and spunky guard dogs keep the pace quick in this holiday mystery. Recommend to: cozy mystery lovers, Christmas lovers and even a Grinch's heart might melt. Thank you to Minotaur and NetGalley for the complimentary digital ARC.
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It's Christmas in Caerphilly again and that means that Meg Langslow is up to her neck in Christmas-related tasks plus a little mystery in Donna Andrews's new book, The Gift of the Magpie. This year Meg is busy with the Helping Hands for the Holidays project where neighbors help each other with projects they either can't or can't afford to do themselves.

Meg's latest task is helping Harvey the hoarder whose house needs to be decluttered in order for necessary home repairs to be done before the building inspector condemns it. Making the task harder is Harvey's nosy neighbors and a handful of disagreeable cousins who appear to have their eyes on Harvey's things. A murder right in the middle of the project complicates her efforts and sets her on the trail of figuring out who might want Harvey dead. 

Meg has the assistance as always of her extraordinarily talented and helpful family and the many friends and denizens of Caerphilly. Meg and her recruited volunteers must juggle helping the police sort through endless boxes of records that might give a clue to the motive for the murder, assist with the many remaining helping hands projects, prepare for the Christmas festivities, and negotiate between her grandfather and her cousin Rose Noire over the fate of some escaped magpies. All of this as well as making sure a murderer faces justice.

Donna Andrews has an unparalleled ability to juggle an enormous cast of characters without making the story seem overpopulated or underdeveloped. She also manages to squeeze in tidbits about the banking crisis during the great depression as well as the care and habits of magpies.

The Gift of the Magpie is the perfect tonic for 2020. Caerphilly is a Norman Rockwell painting come to life. The warmth of the characters seeps out of the pages and into your home. This story is perfect to disappear into and forget about the real world for a few hours. It's impossible to read this book without a smile on your face from beginning to end. This book is a perfect gift to give either to someone else or to yourself.
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I look forward each year to the titles that Andrews comes up with for her books, and how she works that into the story.
This year, Meg Langslow and her extended family are all involved in the town’s “Helping Hands for the Holidays” project. Neighbors help others with things they can’t do, or can’t afford to have done.
One of the biggest projects of the season is helping Harvey, who has a reputation as a hoarder, clean out his clutter. Meg discovers that much of that clutter was put there by Harvey’s father, and helping Harvey isn’t turning out to be as difficult as she thought. But, they do have to get it done in order to keep his cousins from trying to get the town to force him out.
Why are they so concerned? Rumor has it that there might be money hidden there, left by Harvey’s grandfather and father.
The magpie comes in via Meg’s grandfather, a local veterinarian. I’ll just leave his part for you to discover!
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What can I say?  I love Meg, Michael, and her large cast of family and friends.  I have not read the entire series, but have dipped into it here and there over years.  This was a fun holiday mystery.  Her family was wonderful as always and I really love that the characters age, change, and grow over the length of the series.   We have one cute holiday mystery, two cute dogs, and lots of family.  Four paws up!!

Thank you to St. Martin's Press, Minotaur Books, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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The Gift of the Magpie:  A Meg Langslow Mystery
By Donna Andrews
November 2020

It wouldn’t be Christmas if blacksmith Meg Langslow didn’t have a hundred things to do and no time to do them.  This year has amped up and extended her List-that-tells-her-to-breath as a result of the well-intentioned Ladies’ Interfaith Council’s Helping Hands for the Holidays.  Something of a Make-A-Wish program for adults (but without the accompanying terminal illness), Helping Hands assigns volunteers to do good deeds repairing homes, running errands, and completing major projects.  It has fallen to Meg to tackle the hoarding home of Harvey the Hoarder, whose relatives are threatening to call Adult Protective Services.  Harvey Dunlop’s neighbors are none too pleased either with the state of his property-value-lowering house, but it’s apparently a random spittoon that falls and leads to his fatal head injury.  

As Meg juggles the growing list of Helping Hands tasks, she also has the Christmas Carnival and her husband’s one-man staged production of A Christmas Carol to attend.  As Harvey’s avaricious relatives descend on the property demanding entry and carting off his belongings, Meg is enlisted by the police to again use her natural investigative skills to navigate through the motives and shenanigans of these infiltrators.

After 27 previous entries in this delightful series, readers should be prepared for the usual dozen tasks Meg must handle in order to keep her family and the town of Caerphilly running.  Grandfather is currently obsessed with the return of the magpies he’s been studying, Corvidae avians he believes have been unjustly lured away by cousin Rose Noire.  Meg’s uber-organized mother is one of the leaders helping to sort through Harvey’s deluge of belongings, while Meg’s twin sons are on a mission to find everyone the perfect present. These are characters whom readers have grown to love and just love spending time with as they engage in hilarious antics and normal chaos.  This has always been one of my favorite mystery series at the top of my To-Read list, and every installment never fails to entertain with its unique plots and usual pandemonium.
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Meg is running Caerphilly’s Helping Hands for the Holidays Project, and coordinating volunteers to help people with projects they can’t do themselves (either physically or financially). I won’t spoil the story, but there are several mysteries that present themselves and are in need of solving.

There is a lot of detail about the various projects the Helping Hands crew are working on, some of which I didn’t think was 100% necessary or relevant to the story. It wasn’t until close to the halfway point when the main mystery really surfaced.

Despite being number 28 I thought the Gift of the Magpie worked pretty well as a stand-alone book. However, I do think I’d have had a better sense of the town, and the characters if I had read the other books first. I liked the characters well enough but I didn’t really feel like I knew them through this book alone. For example, it wasn’t entirely clear to me who Meg really was, what she did, and why she was so involved in solving mysteries, instead of leaving it to the police. I wanted a more plausible excuse for her to be doing what she was doing.

There are certainly a lot of different storylines to keep you guessing though, and it had the feeling of an Agatha Christie mystery in a lot of ways.

When looking up the other books in the series I couldn’t help but chuckle at some of the names. I’m a sucker for a good pun or any wordplay really, and a few of my favorites included Six Geese A-Slaying, The Hen of the Baskervilles, Duck the Halls, Lord of the Wings, and The Nightingale Before Christmas.
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Gift of the Magpie (28th in this engaging cozy series) is a Christmas adventure, centered on Caerphilly's Helping Hands for the Holidays project (which I hope exists somewhere beyond fiction).

Meg is asked to help Harvey the Hoarder, whose 'relatives are threatening to sic Adult Protective Services on him.'
There are break-ins and violence escalates in parallel with festive preparations.

Of course, Meg figures it all out, as we expect, and helps Grandfather sort out his missing magpies as an aside.
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An entertaining and well written mystery.  Great addition to the series.  I received an advance ebook from the publisher and Netgalley and this is my unbiased review.
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Meg is gathering her volunteers to help clean the home of a local hoarder.   She finds him to be a lovely person who is merely unable to take care and throw away.   Others think he is hiding something.   Before the cleaning can be completed,  he is found dead.   Who did it,  and why?
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The Gift of the Magpie by Donna Andrews is a Meg Langslow mystery. I confess, this is the first of this series I have read. Some of my comments may have been different if I had read the rest of the series. The book was difficult to get into and I struggled to finish it. There were too many characters and too many subplots, many of which seemed unnecessary. I also do not find it a satisfying conclusion when the protagonist stumbles into a situation, nearly gets herself and others killed, and gets credit for solving the crime. This seems to be happening much too often, of late. Sometime in the future I may go back to earlier books and see if my opinion changes. 

Meg is deeply involved organizing and working with the Helping Hands organization that the community is fully behind. They help anyone who needs it, doing a variety of tasks. The big task on the horizon is clearing the home of hoarder, Harvey Dunlop, who needs help clearing out his house, but the more immediate need is that the house is falling down. It needs a new roof and all manner of other repairs, none of which can be accomplished until it is cleared out. Meg has organized a crew and an empty store in which to keep his belongings as volunteers help him sort. He has some relatives who are not very nice and seem to think that what is his is theirs. This is a hoarder of a story. I was not impressed.

I was invited to read The Gift of the Magpie by Netgalley. All opinions and interpretations contained herein are solely my own. #netgalley #thegiftofthemagpie
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4 stars = Great, might re-read
I enjoyed this Christmas tale starring Meg Langslow and her family and friends. The mystery felt like a smaller part of the story than usual in a book from this series. There are a lot of Christmas pieces to the book as well as interactions with various townspeople. There were times where I wanted to skim by the descriptions to get back to the meat of the mystery.

That said, I enjoyed the non-mystery portions of the story. I thoroughly enjoy Meg's family and her friends from Caerphilly. The mystery itself was good - some nice twists, and a supremely satisfying ending. I especially liked how Meg's work with Harvey led her teen sons to ask important questions about Christmas and "stuff" and helping others.

Fans of the series should check out Meg's latest adventure, especially if you are in the mood for a Christmas story. New readers might struggle with this one - there's a LOT going on and those unfamiliar with the main characters might have trouble tracking everything in this one.
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Meg Langslow, the eponymous heroine of Donna Andrew’s long-running series, embodies Lucille Ball’s old chestnut, “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.” Meg runs Caerphilly’s Helping Hands for the Holidays project, a program where neighbors help each other with things they can’t do or can’t afford to have done. With Christmas only a few days away, even can-do Meg is dubious when her friend Caroline suggests the Helping Hands group deliver manure to fertilize an elderly woman’s rose garden. Caroline senses Meg’s reticence.

“And that’s not a good thing?” She must have picked up on my tone.


“It’s a wonderful thing,” I said. “But this is absolutely the wrong time of year to be doing it. Everybody’s calendars are already bursting at the seams, and the weather hasn’t exactly been helpful.”

As it happens, the challenges of a manure drop pale in the face of uncluttering Harvey the Hoarder. Harvey Dunlop is under siege from avaricious relatives and critical neighbors. His front yard is an eyesore and based on the reports of the few folks who’ve gained admittance to his run-down home, it’s a hoarder’s paradise. Hence his nickname. The subject of hoarding is perennially popular. There are three television shows on the topic: Clean House, A&E’s Hoarders, and Hoarding: Buried Alive. 

Meg sits down with Harvey and cuts to chase, telling him she understands why he wants to be the person organizing his belongs but for a variety of reasons he hasn’t been getting that organizing done. She reminds him of the forces arrayed against him.

“Are trying to get me committed.” He nodded. “Oh, don’t try to deny it—Adult Protective Services is the foot in the door that leads to the looney bin.”


I wasn’t going to argue with him.


“Then there’s the most urgent problem of all,” I went on. “This house is about to fall down around your ears. A good lawyer could keep your neighbors and relatives and the county at bay for a good long time, but you need to do something to put this place back together again.”


As if to emphasize my words, a small piece of plaster fell out of the ceiling and landed in Mr. Dunlop’s teacup. He fished it out matter-of-factly and took a sip. Then he closed his eyes and nodded slightly.

Help is on the way in the shape of Helping Hands for the Holidays. Are you thinking this smacks of a nanny state, “interfering unduly with personal choice?” Au contraire. Meg’s volunteers will not be throwing out a single item, rather they will pack up Harvey’s belongings and temporarily move them to the currently vacant Caerphilly Furniture World building. Harvey is welcome to sleep there, surrounded by his possessions, while Helping Hands repairs his house. All goes well, the volunteers work like demons all day, and everyone celebrates that night with a spontaneous gathering at Furniture World. Harvey returns to his house for the last time and disaster strikes. Meg comes by Harvey’s home late in the evening, to check on a feral cat, and finds Harvey’s limp body in the garage. The same garage that had recently been burgled. 

Was there any truth to the rumor that he had something valuable hidden beneath all his junk? Was one of his friends, neighbors, or relatives greedy enough to murder him for the rumored treasure?

American history is at the core of the mystery, specifically the failure of U.S. banks after the Depression and FDR’s edict that everyone turn over their gold in exchange for paper currency. Back in the day, Harvey’s family owned a local bank. Local lore, feuds, and legends underpin the mystery of who attacked a harmless hoarder.

The Gift of the Magpie is an enjoyable mixture of timeless tropes and modern ways.  Timeless: gardening, Christmas festivities, watching out for neighbors, greed (relatives), noisiness (neighbors), quilting, and carpentry. Modern: computer searches, chat rooms, and using social media as a platform for animal adoption. Meg’s army of teenage volunteers ricochet between the task at hand and checking their mobiles. 

There’s a soupçon of fantasy too. Meg’s teenage twins are obsessed with choosing the perfect Christmas present for their family and friends, straining credulity a teensy bit. There are fabulous meals at the drop of a hat, mostly of the smorgasbord everyone-bring-something variety. The Christmas decorations are practically at a professional level. But perhaps that’s just what we need, a heartwarming vision of a magical Christmas rather than a focus on the mayhem of the holidays. 

The Gift of the Magpie is the 28th Meg Langslow mystery! It’s my first visit to Caerphilly, Virginia but I had no problem picking up the strands of the continuing stories. I intend to check out some of the earlier stories, particularly ones with a Christmas theme like How The Finch Stole Christmas! 

I wondered what was behind the title. According to European folk tales, “it is widely believed that magpies have a compulsive urge to steal sparkly things for their nests,” although reality may not back up that assumption. Nevertheless, Harvey the Hoarder is an indiscriminate magpie, unwilling and possibly unable to part with anything in his past. His travails are described with understanding and empathy and the juxtaposition of hoarding and the holidays make for a novel Christmas mystery.
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The Gift of the Magpie by Donna Andrews is the 28th book in the Meg Langslow series, and another great addition. In this adventure Meg is busy running Caerphilly's Helping Hand for the Holidays project, with neighbor helping each other out.  When the Helping Hands were decluttering Harvey the Hoarder home, he was murdered.  Was it someone Meg knew, believing the rumors that Harvey had valuables in his home. I love this series, and the wonderful characters. Caerphilly sounds like a great town, with all their quirky people and large families. The plot of the stories are always well written and developed and often make me laugh out loud. This book has more twists and turns, that kept me reading page after page. I strongly recommend this book and the whole series for anyone who likes well written cozy mysteries that are unique and delightful.   
I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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I've read this series from book 1 and I love how the series just keeps getting better and better.  Meg and family are like old friends and I'm always ready to visit with them.

On in Caerphilly can Christmas pull the community together to help those that just need some help.  This was a bittersweet mystery, as I really liked the one that was murdered.  Meg and family are on the case as Christmas is getting closer, and a blizzard in coming.  

I loved the Christmas twist.  I just can't wait for the next book when we can visit again!
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I adore this series by Donna Andrews!  The family, the fun and of course the mystery.  Love the characters and the interactions - highly recommend!
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Meg Langslow has her hands full this holiday season. In addition to dealing with all her crazy family and their holiday needs, her position helping the mayor has her running their new Helping Hands program, where they try their best to help anyone who asks for help. Need some quilters to help finish your late grandmother’s final quilt? Meg will find you some stitchers to help. Need some fresh organic manure for your rose bushes? Meg will have her father start with their own llamas and then look for more manure if the garden is big enough. 

Need someone to clean out the house of Harvey, whose hoarding is legendary? That’s a little more complicated. 

However, there have been calls from neighbors, about smells and about vermin. Meg had helped out a couple of years previous, when he’d allowed a group of volunteers to help clean up his yard, so she knows Harvey. And she understands how compassion is necessary when helping a hoarder. But to clean out and fix up the entire house is a big job. If she’s going to succeed, she’ll need the right team to help her. For this job, Meg will need to bring out the big guns: her grandmother. 

As Cordelia and Meg’s cousin Rose Noire work with Harvey, keeping him talking about some of the special family pieces in his house, Meg has a team of volunteers starting to box up all his stuff and take it to an empty hardware store, where Harvey can go through his treasures in his own time while the repairs are getting taken care of at his house. And while things are humming along inside Harvey’s house, Meg notices that outside is a different story. The neighbors on both sides of Harvey are watching them with eagle eyes, and a trio of strangers in cars across the street stare them down like predators. Those three turn out to be cousins of Harvey, second cousins, who Harvey doesn’t like or trust at all. 

After a successful day of clearing out boxes, the Langslows take Harvey to a Christmas concert and a big potluck dinner, where he seems happy if a bit overwhelmed by all the attention. But when Meg goes back to her house the next day to get the decluttering going again, Harvey doesn’t answer the door. She’s worried that he’s gotten cold feet about the entire project, but then Meg finds him in the garage. On the floor. In a pool of blood. 

Between the Christmas festivities, the Helping Hands projects, and helping her grandfather try to track down his missing magpies, Meg has a lot on her plate. But with the help of family and friends, it’s not too much to take on solving a murder, right? Of course. She’ll just add it to her never-ending to do list in her notebook-that-tells-her-when-to-breathe, and the townspeople of Caerphilly can maybe even find themselves a Christmas miracle. 

Donna Andrews is back with her 28th book in the delightful Meg Langslow mystery series with The Gift of the Magpie. For me, these books never disappoint, as the giant Langslow family always brings charm, humor, intelligence, warmth, and justice to any crime that happens in Caerphilly (or anywhere else they happen to be). 

A love these books! A longtime fan of Donna Andrews, reading her books feel to me like coming home, to a big, chaotic, loving family that always find themselves around murder. It’s not the family I have, and maybe with all the crime happening around them, not the family I would want, but I still love to spend time with them every year. A week or so with Meg and her family is the perfect reminder that while there is certainly evil in the world, it can be overcome with thoughtful ideas, strong family and friends, and a compassionate heart. The Gift of the Magpie is the perfect holiday novel! 

Egalleys for The Gift of the Magpie were provided by St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley. with many thanks.
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The eccentric Langslow family is back in their seventh Christmas themed adventure and things are as festive and entertaining as always.  Meg has her hands full assisting with the town's Helping Hands for the Holidays project and this year her job centers around assisting local hoarder Harvey clear out his house so that it can get some much needed repairs.  The family head over to Harvey's and while Meg's grandmother Cordelia takes the time to listen to Harvey's stories and make him feel at ease, the rest of the family along with a resourceful group of volunteers work on packing up Harvey's belongings to move to an empty furniture store.  After a long day, the family heads home however it's not long before rumors start circulating about a treasure being hidden in among Harvey's other belongings and it soon becomes evident that their are many members of Harvey's family that are intent on gaining access to his house for less than altruistic reasons.  When the Langslow's return the following day however they are shocked to discover that Harvey has been hit over the head and is in critical condition. When news reaches Meg that Harvey has died as a result of his injuries, she becomes determined to investigate and get to the bottom of what happened to Harvey. Of course Meg's family can't help but assist in their own loving way. 
Christmas in Carephilly is always a unique and interesting experience and I highly recommend that any readers that have not had the pleasure of experiencing the holidays with the Langslows should take advantage of the opportunity immediately.  There are lessons we could all learn about how to assist one another through difficult times and the value of a good laugh in even the most dire of situations.  There were plenty of suspects to sift through and plenty of motives as well and readers will enjoy following Meg in her investigation right up to the highly satisfying ending.  I highly recommend this series and each of the Christmas centered stories in particular to get readers in a festive mood for the holidays.
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There are few things that I can expect on a regular basis to absolutely delight me, but Donna Andrew’s holiday offerings are consistently sublime. The Gift of the Magpie does not disappoint. This year, Meg is leading the town’s new Helping Hands for the Holidays program, originally designed to after a hurricane to help the citizens of Caerphilly with the cleanup and repairs that they could not afford or physically handle themselves. With the holidays approaching, the program is opened up to those who need help in other ways. From tracking down exotic manures for prize-winning rose bushed to helping Harvey the Hoarder regain control of his abode and life, Meg is tackling it all. 

While there was a little less of the Langslow clan than usual in the holiday stories, the townspeople of Caerphilly filly in quite nicely. Just as Harvey’s life is on the upswing, he’s attacked. With a long list of possible suspects including greedy relatives, frustrated neighbors, and the oddest possible love interest, Meg has her work cut out for her, all leading into Christmas day. 

I am always amazed by how Ms. Andrews comes up with creative, bird-themed titles. In this year’s story, the magpies play as a secondary plotline, one that is satisfactory, but not pivotal to the core mystery. The core mystery though is a good one. Not the strongest one in the series, but solid, with an unexpected twist or two. I can’t express how much I enjoy this series, especially the holiday stories. If it was possible to pre-order next year’s holiday book, I would.
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Wow! This book is full of twists and turns, deceit and truths, love and hate and murder! This is my first book by this author and it was okay but there is so much to remember with who did what with whom and why that you get so tangled up you don't know if you're up or down. I'm sure there are others out there that will love it. Enjoy! 📚

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Meg and her family are back for another adventure. Harry the Hoarder is Helping Hands latest project and Meg is in charge of the crew helping clean out and fix up Harry’s house when Harry ends up murdered.  There are plenty of suspects - the cousin who is champing at the bit to get inside Harry’s house even before Harry dies, the neighbors who kept calling the authorities on Harry over his hoarding and then there is the mysterious woman who claims to be Harry’s online girlfriend. Or perhaps the murder is the result of a long-held grudge over the failure of the bank Harry’s great-grandfather owned that failed in 1933 leaving many people without their money.  Along with Harry’s murder there is the mystery of the magpies missing from the Caerphilly zoo and Meg’s grandfather’s efforts to find them and return them to the zoo. Meg races to solve both mysteries. Another enjoyable entry in the series.
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