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“Dashing Through the Snowbirds” By: Donna Andrews


“Dashing Through the Snowbirds”

Author: Donna Andrews

Publisher: Minotaur Books

New York


Pages: 304

Price: $26.99 (Hardcover)

Andrews’ New Mystery Involves Murder, Ancestry and DNA

Andrews’ last novel, “Round Up the Usual Peacocks,” had amateur detective Meg Langslow working partly in the past. Her nephew Kevin’s podcast involving cold cases in their Shenandoah Valley area had triggered some contemporary interest and matters warmed up considerably.

This novel, “Dashing Through the Snowbirds,” begins in more typical fashion. It is a few days before Christmas and the house is chock full of Langslow family, gathered for the holidays.

In addition to this gang, they are hosting a dozen Canadians. Meg’s brother, Rob, has a software company, Mutant Wizards, that has joined forces with a Toronto-based company called AcerGen, something like Their combined project is to offer customers information on ancestors, and then, using their new programs and a third company, a DNA lab, living relatives.

Connections might then be made.

This is ethically tricky business. DNA findings are exceedingly private. With whom does one share DNA results? Some blood relatives may not want to be found. Some adopted individuals may not receive this news happily. Some parents who gave up their children for adoption may not want to be uncovered and found.

And, there are possible criminal complications. What about DNA information that may influence ongoing court cases, or, in fact, overturn convictions?

On page 13 of this 416-page novel we meet the president of AcerGen, Ian Meredith, and mirabile dictu, this fellow is not polite and considerate as one would expect a Canadian to be.

He is slovenly, unshaven, seldom showers, handles other people’s food, is rude to old ladies. He has required his people to work far from home right up to the holidays, partly because he thought Virginia was next to Florida and he would be “sitting on a beach under a palm tree, drinking fruity drinks with parasols while his employees slaved away.”

“Don’t Canadian schools teach geography?” she wonders. Mild Meg calls him a “jerk.” And we agree.

This distresses Meg. She would never harbor negative opinions regarding race, religion, nationality etc. So it is a great relief when she learns Meredith is NOT a Canadian after all, but was raised on the West Coast somewhere.

Ah, well, then it’s OK not to like him: he’s from California.

Readers of Andrews’ cozies know a character declared unlikeable in the first few pages is doomed. He will have the life expectancy of a second lieutenant on the Western Front in 1915.

I was delighted by the lack of effect Meredith’s murder has on this house full of people. There is not a ripple. Why should there be? This has happened to the Langslows about 30 times before!

And his Canadians employees really didn’t like him anyway.

The festivities keep going full blast: “As if we were all doing our best to undo any blight Ian’s murder has cast on our holiday spirits,” Meg says. Grandmother continues to overdecorate the house with garlands, holly, tinsel and bells, the Canadians keep working, and Dad finishes building a skating rink in the back pasture.

No one misses a meal and the meals are terrific.

Meg’s cook, Nora, believing Canadians to be French, has been cooking them cassoulet, beef bourguignon, and coq au vin. They like it all right but are delighted when the Virginians realize they are from Ontario and they get fed poutine, a treat made with French fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. They love it.

Of course, the murderer has to be found, and there are many suspects, in the house and connected to Meredith’s unscrupulous use of DNA. Meg is in physical danger for a few moments but I have learned not to worry about her.

Don Noble’s newest book is Alabama Noir, a collection of original stories by Winston Groom, Ace Atkins, Carolyn Haines, Brad Watson, and eleven other Alabama authors. 

Don Noble , Ph. D. Chapel Hill, Prof of English, Emeritus, taught American literature at UA for 32 years. He has been the host of the APTV literary interview show "Bookmark" since 1988 and has broadcast a weekly book review for APR since November of 2001, so far about 850 reviews. Noble is the editor of four anthologies of Alabama fiction and the winner of the Alabama state prizes for literary scholarship, service to the humanities and the Governor's Arts Award.