It’s been a few years since I read a Meg Langslow book. I really enjoyed the first book in the series, ‘Murder With Peacocks’ where Meg Langslow stumbled into solving a murder while trying to organise a series of family weddings. The second book, ‘A Murder With Puffins’ was an éclair of a book: light, sweet and quickly gone, that didn’t leave me with an appetite for more of the series.
Recently, I’ve seen a lot of people saying that the Meg Langslow Christmas mysteries have become part of their Christmas reading tradition, so I decided to dive back in at the tenth book, ‘Six Geese A-Slaying’ which is the first Christmas Mystery.
I’m very glad that I did. There was no downside to not having read the intervening seven books. The book works well as a standalone. Everything you need to know is on the page and there weren’t any obvious spoilers for previous books.
The premise is straightforward but fun. Meg is Mistress of the Revels, the person responsible for organising and managing the
Christmas Holiday Parade for the small town of Caerphilly, Virginia, an event that features people in costume for each of the twelve days of Christmas, plus camel-riding Magi, Diwali Elephants and Santa. Things start to go wrong when Santa, an unpleasant man who seems to have gotten the job because he’s one of the few men small enough to fit the town’s Santa Suit, is murdered. Meg, who knows everyone, involves herself in the ensuing investigation while keeping the Parade in motion and fending off the attempts of a cynical reporter to write something that ridicules Caerphilly, the Parade and Meg.
It’s a quirky, cheerful story, filled with humour based partly on the larger-than-life characters in the Caerphilly Parade (many of whom Meg is related to) and partly by Meg’s dry observations about them or deadpan reactions to them.
The mystery is a little more complicated than is typical for a cosy mystery and many of the people, particularly the ones dressed as geese, become suspects. There’s also a surprising amount of action, which eventually results in Meg staring down the possibility of becoming another victim of the killer.
The book was more fun than I expected it to be. I enjoyed the controlled way that Donna Andrews used humour throughout the book, while still creating tension and without ever devolving into farce. True, I did have to suspend my disbelief more heavily than usual but not too much for a Christmas Cosy Mystery. But it was Meg that I enjoyed the most. She’s a lot more confident than I remember her being in the first two books. Her curiosity is insatiable. Her relentless. high-energy pursuit of the solution to the mystery makes her unstoppable. Yet, even when under threat of violence, she addresses everything with a sense of humour that is quite infectious. I also loved that she is only vaguely aware of the impact that she has on the people around her (think tornado hitting a house and you’ll get the idea).
I listened to the audiobook version of ‘Six Geese A-Slaying’, narrated by Bernadette Dunne. It took a while for me to adjust to the narrator because, to me, she sounded much older than Meg Langslow, from whose point of view the story is told. Everything else about the narration worked well. The main characters had recognisable voices that matched their backgrounds and personalities and the timing of the humour was perfect.