Die Like an Eagle by Donna Andrews is another zany Meg Langslow mystery, filled with the spirit of America's pastime and Donna's eagle eye (Available August 2, 2016).
Agatha Award-winning writer Donna Andrews sets the scene for a myriad of characters, all connected by summer ball. You don’t have to be a lover of baseball, at any level, to be drawn into this Meg Langslow mystery. Meg seems to know everyone, or everyone who knows everyone, but this serves her little when a body is discovered in an unlikely place.
I stuck the screwdriver blade into the crack of the door. Just under the level of the OCCUPIED sign, and moved it up until it hit something. It took a couple of tries, and if my blacksmithing hadn’t given me good hand and arm strength, I couldn’t have managed, but eventually the latch gave way and I succeeded in flipping it up.
“Ready or not, here I come,” I said to give anyone inside a last warning-though by this time I was pretty sure the porta-potty was empty. If there had been anyone inside, they’d definitely have spoken up since my efforts had not only made considerable noise but had also rocked the porta-potty. I fully expected to find that this was just someone’s idea of a joke-figuring out how to flip the lock closed from outside, and then doing it on Opening Day. When I found the culprit, I was going to give him or her a piece of my mind-and I’d already thought of several likely suspects. In fact, one of them, my brother Rob, was lurking nearby, no doubt pretending to be waiting his turn to use the porta-potty while in reality chuckling to himself.
But I was wrong. When I jerked the door open. I found someone slumped facedown on the floor in a crumpled heap. Male, pudgy, wearing khaki pants and a mud-colored Brown Construction t-shirt. A Yankees baseball hat had fallen off his head.
A murder has been committed, but by whom? It's no mystery that kiddies’ baseball is taken seriously by everyone, even those who deny it, but so seriously that they would kill? There is more—far more—to it all than meets the eye. Was he killed in the porta-potty, or did he meet his demise elsewhere, then was transported to his eventual undignified resting place?
Clues come fast and thick, mostly provided by the huge array of characters who inhabit this well-crafted mystery. Some have their own demons to hide and individual agendas to follow, while others are far too hypnotized by baseball to be anything other than innocent bystanders to the unfolding events which throw up more questions than answers.
The action and intrigue weaves in and out of baseball and local politics. Just when you think you have worked out the culprit, Donna Andrews throws you another curve ball, expertly positioned, whistling through the air.
This is where Andrews excels—she includes all the ingredients you need for a great mystery, allowing you to extract the important bits, not too fast and not too slow, until you get to the juicy end and the truth is uncovered.
Die Like an Eagle is a gentler read—no extreme violence or endless sex scenes to take away from the steady beat of the mystery. Close your eyes and you can be transported to any small town, listening to wood on leather and the excited shouts of children going about their business and their baseball. It’s not all light and sweet; after all, this is a murder mystery.
“Stand up,” the voice whispered.
I followed orders, with my brain working frantically, trying to figure out who had the gun on me.
“Hands up. Move.”
Judging from where his voice was coming from, and the fact that the gun was tilted slightly down from my neck, he was at least an inch or two shorter than me.
I stepped forward, moving carefully, because the only light came from my car headlights.
“Keep going,” the voice said-still softly, but no longer whispering.
The characters in the story are multi-layered. No-one is exactly who they seem. The gentle ones have an underlying steel to them when it comes to a close call in the outfield, and the tough ones tear up when a small hand in a large mitt reaches for the sky. The author does a great job, which is not easy, in keeping the baseball theme alive and beating throughout the whole story. No children are allowed into the darker workings of the mystery, and the adult intrigues are, quite rightly, kept well away from little over eager ears who may end up knowing far more than is good for them.
The result is an enchanting mystery that will keep you paying attention right up to the end, with its clever twist that leaves you not quite sure if you’ve been tapped lightly by a baseball bat or been given a face full of leather mitt. Whichever it is, you will be ready for some more Meg Langslow mysteries from the pen of Donna Andrews, whether it is held by a baseball mitt or not.
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Dirk Robertson is a Scots thriller writer, currently in Virginia where he is promoting literacy and art projects for young gang members. When not writing, tweeting, or blogging on the Mystery Writers of America website, he designs and knits clothes and handbags from recycled rubbish.