Sneaking off from her loving family for a romantic getaway weekend on Maine’s Monhegan Island with her boyfriend, Prof. Michael Waterston, blacksmith Meg Langslow is less than delighted to find that said family has already taken up residence in her aunt Phoebe Hollingsworth’s cabin, along with an even more unwelcome visitor, Hurricane Gladys. And that’s just the beginning. Meg and Michael get shot at by irascible landscape painter Victor Resnick and set upon by hordes of avid bird-watchers even before they discover Resnick’s body floating in a tidal pool. As clouds of suspicion gather, Meg’s jolly physician father disappears; Aunt Phoebe confesses to Resnick’s murder; a fawning authorized biography of the late artist proclaims his youthful affair with Meg’s even more youthful mother, who allegedly took herself off to Paris at 15 for an abortion; and a startling portrait of her mother offers, um, ample confirmation. James Langslow would surely be the prime suspect, if the local constabulary weren’t too busy battling the storm to have any suspects in mind. It’s all just as frantic and high-spirited as Murder with Peacocks (1999)—but, except for the whimsical chapter titles (“All My Puffins,” “Twelve Angry Puffins,” “The Agony and the Puffin,” etc.), not nearly as funny. The nonstop, albeit toothless, alarums and excursions, though, should please fans of puffins, Halloween parties, and The Trouble with Harry.
Was Meg’s sparkling debut a flash in the pan, or has Hurricane Gladys blown her off her amusing stride? The smart money will wait for the best two out of three.