Terns of Endearment by Donna Andrews – a review

Still a great series!

I read and really enjoyed a bunch of the early titles in this series, published back in the early 2000s. Then, between kid-raising and stressful job and a bunch of other stuff, I sort of lost track of this series, so I was happy to receive a review copy of Terns of Endearment from the publisher/Edelweiss. And in the process of reading this most recent title, I remembered why I liked the series so much way back when. Sometimes in long-running series, the later books can feel a bit diluted – that was not at all the case here. I don’t give five-star rankings easily, but Terns of Endearment gets one!

The thing that I probably like the most about this book (and the others in the series) is Meg’s wacky, but not crazy over-the-top, family. It can be tough to walk the fine line between creating funny, engaging characters and ending up instead with caricatures, but Andrews does it well. The protagonist, Meg, has the role of the “sane one”, whom everyone expects to just be able to get things done. And in this book she delivers, whether it’s organizing passengers to deal with tough conditions on their cruise, or organizing her extended family to figure out who committed the various crimes taking place on board, or just organizing with her husband and closest family to keep their kids safe, occupied, and happy.

Meg’s family, on the other hand, are an almost unbelievably assorted crew, where everyone has their own little odd streak. But they all still feel believable, and the dialog (one of the hardest parts to get right, I think) works, even with their various quirks. And those quirks add up together to the ability to deal with both the practical and the criminal challenges they will face.

Andrews is one of the very small group of authors whom I have to read alone, since I’m likely to end up laughing out loud at some point. I’m glad I had a chance to rediscover this series, and now I’m going to have to find and read a bunch of the in-between titles – oh darn!

And finally, as a side note, I was amused to read about the problems that one of the characters in the book had finding new “were-animals” (going as far as dreaming up a were-squid) to populate a long-running fictional paranormal romance series. Somehow I imagine that that character’s struggles may mimic those of Andrews herself to find new birds (and puns) to put in her titles. I hope she finds many more!

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