I have read the 152nd book for the book challenge. It was Murder With Puffins (Meg Langslow Mysteries) by Donna Andrews.
Meg and Michael have planned a romantic get-away weekend at her Aunt Phoebe’s cottage on the island of Monhegan in Maine. They didn’t plan on a hurrican hitting the island just as they were making the water crossing on the last ferry to the island, which made the crossing treacherous. Having arrived at the island a little worse for wear, they trudged to the cottage only to find they were not alone–Aunt Phoebe was there, along with Mrs. Fenniman, Meg’s father and mother, and brother Rob. There’s goes the romantic weekend. Plus they were stuck in the middle of a hurricane.
Before the hurricane swung back around, however, there was a spot of clear weather and Meg and Michael decided to circumnavigate the island. On their walk they came upon a glass and steel monstrosity of a house that belongs to Victor Resnick, a recluse painter, who begins shooting at them as they approach on the footpath near his house. They have a confrontation with him and then go to report him to the constable. Then they return home, but of course the birdwatchers on the island misinterpret their report to hear that Resnick is shooting the birds on the island. Aunt Phoebe rushes out to confront Resnick herself and Meg’s father heads out to watch the hurricane roll in. And roll in it does.
Meg and Michael rush out to find Aunt Phoebe and Meg’s father to bring them home before the storm gets too bad. In their search, they come upon a tidal pool and find Resnick face down in the pool with a gash on the back of his head–dead. The tide is coming in with the storm. They have to move him or he will be washed out to sea. So they haul his body up the cliff, along with his NO TRESPASSING sign, and place him in his shed for safe keeping. Then they go to see the constable to tell him. With the constable, they move the body to the Anchor Inn which has a refrigerator meat locker which Jim Dickerson, the power plant manager, hooks up with power, and keep Resnick’s body safe in there. But it is too late to go looking for Meg’s father and aunt.
Later in the evening, Aunt Phoebe shows up covered in mud and leaves. She had fallen in a gully after a fight with Resnick. She hit him in the head with her walking stick and she believes she killed him even though he was walking around screaming afterwards and everyone saw him. She wants to turn herself in. Still no sign of Meg’s father.
The next day, Aunt Phoebe “confesses” her crime but no one believes she killed Resnick. Meg’s father shows up. He had gotten lost and waited out the storm in a shelter. Meg and Michael go to look at Resnick’s house. Its glass windows are smashed and they enter the house. They find a nude portrait of Meg’s mother which they store in the wine cellar and look through his papers. He had someone writing his biography and they find this. They also find out that he was blackmailing people on the island to give up their land to build a resort. They meet the representative of the resort who was cut out of the deal, Ken Takashimi. They decide to come back later to get into the studio.
Meg’s father conducts a sort of autopsy with another doctor. He finds that Resnick didn’t died from his wounds but that he was electrocuted. The tidal pool was wired with electricity. From pictures that birdwatchers have taken Meg and Michael can see an extension cord in the tidal pool. They know who did this. It was Jim Dickerson who runs the power plant. Resnick was threatening to take over his parents home and the power plant.
Meg meets the island’s Puffin Lady, Rhapsody. She writes children’s books and illustrates them with puffins. The gift shop is loaded with puffin memorabilia and her books. Then at the tidal pool, a dead puffin is found lying on a rock. Everyone is outraged. But Meg thinks something is wrong. The puffin is in mating plumage. It is past mating season. This puffin has been frozen and put out here, Rhapsody has used this puffin for her paintings and put it here. She confesses. She didn’t know what to do with the puffin and thought this would be best. She found the dead puffin a while ago and used it and then froze it. Now she wants to do the right thing and give it back to nature.
Meg and Michael go back to the studio. They break in by going through the roof. They put the key in the door so they can get out and see many more portraits of a nude Meg’s mother. Some are not finished. Apparently these are new portraits. Jim Dickerson comes in and captures Meg and Michael. He duct-tapes their hands and pours turpentine on the floor. Meg reaches her backpack and sets off a flare. It sparks and sets Jim’s jeans on fire and starts a fire. Jim runs out and slams the door. The key falls out. Meg and Michael use a painting to kick an hole in the glass wall and escape. The studio blows up and everything is destroyed.
Meg and Michael go back to the house. They check Resnick’s computer. They realize he was writing his own biography. They burn the copy and wipe the computer clean. They bring the portrait of Meg’s mother to the cottage since Meg’s grandfather has a receipt for the painting. They pack up to leave. They paint Rhapsody’s signature on the painting so that Meg’s father will think Rhapsody did it.
On the ferry before it leaves, there is a big crate. Spike the dog keeps barking at it. Meg convinces the constable to open it. In it they find Jim Dickerson. He is caught. The birders are happy. Ken Takishimi gives Michael a certificate for three nights at a resort south of Rockport. Michael and Meg will stop there on their way home to Virginia to have their romantic get-away.
I loved this book. It was very chaotic with Meg and Michael racing back and forth around the island after various relatives and back and forth going to Resnick’s house so it got a bit confusing sometimes. But it was rather exciting. Everyone was gaga over the puffins even though the puffins had already left the island for the the north. The gift shop was overrun with puffins. The birdwatchers figured prominently in the book too.