As The Penguin Who Knew Too Much by Donna Andrews opens, Meg Langslow, who knows her father’s penchant for finding bodies, is fairly unphased by Dr. Langslow’s announcement that he has dug up a body in her cellar. But why was he digging in her cellar? To create a pond for the penguins, of course! Meg learns that her father has volunteered to foster the penguins from the zoo that has gone insolvent and is being repossessed by the bank. But the zoo owner has disappeared, so everyone who has taken in animals after being told it would be only just a couple days, is now fed up and drops off the animals at Meg’s house the same weekend she is moving into it. Now the zoo owner has reappeared, but in Meg’s cellar.
News begins to filter in that the zoo owner has been either corrupt or inept, with animals randomly disappearing from the zoo. Now they learn that he might have even been involved in canned hunting, where someone corners a large animal and lets someone else kill it with no effort, an act that is illegal in most states, including Virginia. They get additional reinforcement from the eminent zoologist, Dr. Blake, who mysteriously shows up on Meg’s doorstep and has been talking about purchasing the zoo. Further, they face a challenge from a group protesting the caging of animals whose leader runs around and sets free most of the animals, with Meg’s just barely managing to stop him from letting the hyenas loose.
The book introduces another memorable character in the new acting coroner, Dr. Smoot. The man freezes up with severe claustrophobia when told to find the body in the cellar, driving everyone crazy with his repeated stories how his brothers used to torture him while dressing as vampires. Rose Noir, Meg’s New Ager cousin, convinces him that his best therapy is to dress up as a vampire himself, so soon he is jumping out of bushes and frightening everyone while dressed as a vampire himself.
This book contains a lot of humor, starting with the penguins and continuing throughout the course of the book. The mystery plot has a lot of clever elements, with a number of reasonable suspects, but in the midst of all this, the book made me laugh all the way throughout.
Bernadette Dunne reads the audio edition of this book. She really seems to embody Meg as she reads Meg’s narration. She has good voices that she’s uses for Meg’s parents in particular. I have read the first three books in the series visually, since they are not available on audio, and I really enjoyed the listening experience more than the experience reading on my own.
I really recommend The Penguin Who Knew Too Much as a great way to keep occupied during any commute, distract one from time spent sick in bed, or just accompany the tasks of daily life. Your only problem will be in having to turn the book off when you arrive at your destination in the car or finish your tasks. I give the book five stars!
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