Donna Andrews’s first novel, Murder with Peacocks, was published in 1999, beginning her critically acclaimed series of Meg Langslow murder mysteries. The book garnered her the coveted Agatha Award, opening the door for her to expand on Meg’s story—one about an amateur detective that is a blacksmith by day set in Caerphilly, Virginia—and Andrews hasn’t stopped producing. Since then, she’s written more than twenty novels, including the on-going Langslow series, which is a favorite of mine.
But it's her Christmas mysteries that keep me coming back. And on Christmas Eve, what better time to stock up on three perfect Christmas cozies?
Six Gees A-Slaying
The first book I read in the series happened to be Six Geese A-Slaying, a tale set around the holidays in the wonderful Langslow universe. In this 10th installment in the Meg Langslow series, Meg and her husband, Michael, are busy planning the local Caerphilly Christmas Parade with the theme of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Soon, the excitement turns to shock when the local fellow playing good ol’ Saint Nick, Ralph Doleson, is found dead. Add in one peeved local group by the name of SPOOR—Stop Poisoning Our Owls and Raptors—that didn’t particularly like Ralph and his grumpy, animal detesting ways, and things begin to get murky.
It’s the setting and her returning cast of characters that really shine in this series. The small-town feel and corky characters are reminiscent of the fictional Stars Hollow of Gilmore Girls fame. Eccentric folks abound, Meg is usually the voice of reason with her clear head and uncanny ability to find herself surrounded by murder.
Duck the Halls
It would be another five years before Andrews would write a second Christmas-themed story, giving us Duck the Halls in 2013. Here, we get a more prankster, mischievous blend of tale. With only a few days until Christmas, the New Life Baptist Church has been filled with a cage full of skunks. Once they are removed, the smell requires the local Christmas concert to be moved to another church.
However, a missing boa from the zoo makes an appearance at the new venue during the concert, followed by a bevy of ducks in the Catholic church. Clearly there are pranksters afoot, and Meg must figure out who the culprit is while dealing with a fire that ends in murder. Watching our harried hero attempt to deal with all the mischief and mayhem while keeping up with seasonal duties and Christmas spirit makes for a fun read.
The Nightingale Before Christmas
One year later brought The Nightingale Before Christmas. Here, a competition turns deadly when the locals have an all-out decorating competition that finds the top contender dead. With mayhem and laughs, Andrews pulls out another satisfying seasonal entry as we return to Caerphilly in the middle of the holidays. Meg’s mother is a contestant, and that brings the mystery even closer to home.
Just when you think you have it figured out, Andrews throws you for another loop and keeps you guessing. The cast of characters is, as always, incredibly entertaining and memorable. Throw them in a warm and fuzzy Christmas mystery, and it’s darn near perfect.
As someone who hasn’t read this series from start to finish, I can honestly say that you can pick up these Christmas-based tales without feeling like you don’t know what’s going on. They stand alone easily. So, if you’re in the mood for a fun holiday murder mystery, I suggest picking up a copy of any of the ones mentioned to cuddle up to on a cold day.
The Meg Langslow series is full of heartwarming feels, and it never fails to give me a smile. Especially with this last year being so unforgiving for many reasons, these books are a warm light at the end of a tired day.
Amber Keller is a writer who delves into dark, speculative fiction, particularly horror and suspense/thrillers. You can find her work on her Amazon Author Page and she also features many short stories on Diary of a Writer. A member of the Horror Writers Association, she contributes to many websites and eMagazines and you can follow her on Twitter @akeller9.