Murder disrupts what already looks like the garage sale from hell in Meg Langslow’s fifth birdbrained adventure (Crouching Buzzard, Leaping Loon, 2003, etc.).
Now that fiction’s favorite decorative blacksmith and her sweetie, Prof. Michael Waterston, have bought The House in the Virginia hills, they have to clean out tons of junk left behind by the late Edwina Sprocket, the founder of SPOOR (Stop Poisoning Our Owls and Raptors) recently succeeded as president by Meg’s doctor dad. Since yard sales are generally quiet, low-key affairs, they’ve spiced this one up by inviting some 70 neighbors, relatives and Sprocket heirs to make it a multifamily event and offering discounts for buyers who show up in costume. The resulting bedlam is hilarious to every one except Gordon McCoy, aka Gordon-you-thief, the sharpie antique dealer who gets himself bashed to death with a decorative bookend in the owl barn. “This isn’t an Agatha Christie novel,” Chief Henry Burke warns, but he’s only half right. The ranks of suspects who turn out to have paraded seriatim through the barn rearranging the corpse strongly suggest an amalgam of middling Christie—say, The Mysterious Affair at Styles—with Andrews’s trademark farce.
A creaking mystery surrounded by rampant goofiness, less interested in serious suspects than walk-on zanies. If you’re in a truly silly mood, you can’t do better; serious puzzlers need not apply.