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Meg Langslow has been dragooned by her parents into organizing the rose show for the Caerphilly Garden Club in Donna Andrews's Swan for the Money. The show is scheduled to take place at the estate of Mrs. Philomena Winkleson, an eccentric and extremely harsh resident who detests all colors, insisting on keeping everything in black and white. One entrant even shows anger upon learning that the competition will allow colored roses because Mrs. Winkleson told her that only black and white roses would be allowed in the show. The owner of the estate told the woman this despite the fact that every other member of the committee voted against such a requirement.
As Meg goes to prepare for the show, her newly-found grandfather, the famed 90-something zoologist Dr. Blake, along with his partner in preventing crime against animals, Caroline Wilner of the Wilner Animal Sanctuary, tag along. They confess eventually to Meg that they have come because Dr. Clarence Rutledge, the chief local veterinarian, suspects Mrs. Winkleson of abusing her animals. This becomes even more noticeable at Mrs. Winkleson's callous response to the theft of Mimi, her pure-bred Maltese dog. Then as Meg, her grandfather, and Caroline visit the goats, which have been bred to faint at the first sign of nervousness, they realize that one figure lying down is not a goat. Instead, it is Mrs. Winkleson, and she has no pulse. Caroline starts CPR, and Dr. Langslow comes running to help. But they discover that the woman has been stabbed with a pair of secateurs, a fancy name for garden shears, that Meg made for her mother and which were stolen from Meg's mother at the garden party two weeks earlier. Then, just as the ambulance is pulling up, everyone is astonished to see Mrs. Winkleson approach them in anger at having her home bothered. The victim, who doesn't make it, turns out to be Mrs. Sandy Seacrest, a helpful and cooperative member of the Garden Club, probably mistaken for the estate's owner.
I greatly enjoyed Swan for the Money. The plot had fun twists, while the characters were either fun to like or fun to hate. I especially enjoyed all the animal aspects in the book. I also really found the details of the rose show to be informative and interesting. The book kept me riveted from start to finish.
The bird in the title of Swan for the Money comes from a pair of large black swans that live on Mrs. Winkleson's estate. They add a lot of humor to the book, as the swans are very territorial and aggressive. In one scene, a swan bothers the crime scene, so Dr. Smoot, the vampire-obsessed medical examiner, gets knocked down and has his arm broken when he tries to shoo away the swan. Smoot decides that the swan was responsible for killing Mrs. Seacrest, despite the fact that the woman was killed with gardening shears. Meg uses a truck to push it away, but the swan jumps onto the windshield and refuses to move. When Meg tries using the windshield wipers to make the swan move, in fury, it pulls off the wipers. Meg has to drive backwards because she can't see through the front windshield.
The audiobook is performed by Bernadette Dunne, who has narrated the whole series in such a vivid way. She creates excellent voices for each character and impressive inflections for the whole book. Dunne does an amazing job with this book, giving me a lot of listening pleasure.
Swan for the Money is a fun addition to the Meg Langslow series, which is full of humor and creative touches. I liked the new angle of dealing with growing plants. Most of the previous books have focused on animals as the central features, so I enjoyed the touch of the roses. I highly recommend this book and give it five stars.