In The Real Macaw by Donna Andrews, Meg Langslow is dozing in the middle of the night with her four-month-old twin boys when she hears noises downstairs. Going to check on things, Meg finds herself surrounded by dozens of animals of all kinds. The worst is a macaw that swears like a pirate and soon learns to bark, howl, meow, and growl like the other animals. It seems that the county is about to euthanize all the animals in order to save money, so Meg’s grandfather, a world-famous zoologist, and other animal lovers have staged a raid to rescue the animals. However, the man with the truck, Parker Blair, never showed up, so the group brought the animals to Meg’s house. But then Chief Burke shows up at the house to ask why Meg has been calling a dead man. Parker Blair has been murdered.
Soon the situation becomes much more dire, as Meg learns that the mayor has taken out mortgages to do “improvements” on the town of Caerphilly, using county property as collateral. But the payments are long overdue, and the lender is planning to repossess county buildings on Monday. The lender is also in the process of trying to force the county to use public domain to take the farms of locals, including Meg and Michael’s home, in order to develop into high priced condos and shopping centers. And why has someone suddenly switched out a nice, tame macaw for the foul-mouthed one they first brought?
I was excited when I saw that the last book in the gap in audio editions of the Meg Langslow books was being filled (though books 1-3 are still not on audio), and I was not disappointed. I was really pleased to get to see what events led to those of Some Like It Hawk and enjoyed the angle of getting to connect with the community of Caerphilly, whom we see coming together to support their city. I also enjoyed seeing Meg and Michael as they have now become parents. I appreciated the way Michael takes such an active role as a father. While Meg does make a point to care for her kids, Michael does as much childcare as Meg, showing how a father can be deeply involved in his children’s lives as well as the mother. Meg is fortunate to have an extended family nearby who helps out a lot with the babies.
I really enjoyed the creative plot of this book. The whole storyline of a murder’s taking place amid the repossession of a town’s buildings is a creative touch. The Real Macaw has many different angles to the plot. We wonder whether the murder is personal or related to the betrayal of the city by the mayor and his cronies. The macaw also plays a role in the case, which I appreciate, since a series of titles that use puns of a bird’s name could easily lose steam. But the “real macaw” actually helps to solve the murder.
I highly enjoy the unique characters in this book. Each one is personalized and fun, and some of the family members contain such crazy features. The animals also contain fun natures, whether talking about the 8 1/2 furball Spike, who is the vicious one, or the gentle giant wolfhound Tinkerbell, the border collie who keeps herding all the neighbor sheep and their own llamas into the barn, or “the real macaw.” Each character in the book is so alive that I just close my eyes and picture him or her, which thoroughly adds to the joy of listening to the book.
I greatly enjoy the narration of Bernadette Dunne in this whole series, and The Real Macaw is no exception. She makes creative voices for each of her characters, and she does this so well that I don’t even need to be told who is speaking in order to recognize the speaker. I love that she told a group of us in an online live chat recently that she modeled her voice for Meg’s father after her own grandfather. He sounds elderly but active, inquisitive, and a little eccentric on top of that, suiting the character of Dr. Langslow perfectly. Besides her incredible voices for the characters, Dunne does a great job of expressing herself ably without overdoing the excitement, a trap which this series could easily cause a narrator to fall into.
I had a great time listening to The Real Macaw. The book is clever and highly humorous. But further than in just the humor, it shows its cleverness in a strong plot that wraps up, as in all of Andrews’s books, with a wild confrontation with the murderer. I recommend this series to people all the time, especially those who are new to audiobooks. This book, like every other book in the series, deserves five stars!
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