The Christmas Season Gets A Spirited Mystery In M.G. Mason's Novel 'A Salmonweird Sleighing'

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Greetings! We at the British Board of Tourism welcome you to the wonderful seaside hamlet of Salmonweir. Here on the lovely windswept southwestern Cornish coast, you will have the time of your life visiting the most enigmatic village in all of England. What is it that makes Salmonweir so, well, weird? The ghosts, of course! Over five-hundred of the returned incorporeal dead have taken up residence on our storied streets, but fear not, these spirits are just like you and I, hard-working souls who only want to make their mark on the world. And seeing as they come from throughout two-thousand years of British history, any holiday to Salmonweir will be steeped in educational fun for the entire family! SEE the 18th century galleon The Lady Catherine and her spirited crew of scallywags! EXPLORE the age-old church! WATCH a bout of reenacted Roman-era combat! And don’t forget to take the time to talk to Karl Blackman, Detective Inspector (retired), the only living inhabitant of Salmonweir. He knows who’s who about town and will be more than happy to show you around!

Originally released in 2021 and subtitled A Christmas Crime Comedy Caper, U.K. author M.G. Mason’s delightfully quirky novel A Salmonweird Sleighing is the second installment of the ongoing Salmonweird series, and picks up three weeks after the events of its predecessor, Salmonweird: A Cornish Crime Comedy Caper. This go-round, the aforementioned retired Detective Blackman is busy with another mystery in the cozy den of Salmonweir once the ghost of World War II widow Dora Wilson is seemingly murdered on the cusp of the Christmas season. With the village’s phantom occupants still reeling from the mayhem in book one, fresh emotional wounds are opened when a host of recently-arrived spirits start spreading gossip that cause some of Salmonweir’s residents to turn on each other. Complicating matters are the eccentric antics of Ima Crossova (pronounced Eemah Crow-so-vah, young man!), a B-list celebrity TV medium whose otherworldly communicative talents falter in the presence of Salmonweir’s ghosts, and the reappearance of Karl’s estranged wife Valarie, who seems to have turned a new leaf and asserts her desire to rekindle their relationship. But can either woman be trusted? And are the rumor-mongering specters’ accusations the truth, or is something far more sinister afoot?

Unlike many series that confuse potential new readers with cryptic references to earlier installments, Mason does an excellent job of explaining what’s come before without boring those who’ve already enjoyed the opening entry. A true sequel in the best of ways, A Salmonweird Sleighing expands upon the situation and characters rather than simply rehashing them, and without the need for an origin story’s exposition, Mason is able to untie a more perplexing narrative knot, fraught with menacing suspects, genuine peril and head-scratching puzzlement that will keep the reader guessing about the perpetrator’s identity, or identities, until the very end. Yet mystery isn’t actually the main point; as with the first volume, the core emphasis here is on the interpersonal relationships between the lovable cast, and through the often laugh-out-loud humor serious themes about love, loss and heartache are clearly etched. The romantic breakup between Druidic warrior queen Kensa and her star-crossed Roman lover Cato in particular is heartbreakingly real for anyone who’s swam such troubled waters; similarly, when Valarie apologetically shows up on Karl’s doorstep, it paints a vivid portrait of a struggling couple’s attempt to rebuild a broken marriage.

The primary background influence on A Salmonweird Sleighing is undeniably Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol; Mason’s vibrant, ever-clever prose imbues each scene with a pleasing festive ambiance—one can practically smell the spicy mulled wine and delectable holiday treats—and ruminations about the meaning of Christmas itself (especially among those pre-Christian ghosts unfamiliar with the celebration) are thoughtfully woven throughout the book. And therein lies the true power of the Salmonweird experience: not in the witty banter or lighthearted horror (though fans of both the current CBS hit sitcom Ghosts and Peter Jackson’s criminally underrated 1996 spirits-run-amok romp The Frighteners will find much to appreciate in these pages), but in the sense of community, of family, Mason engenders. Despite its inhabitants originating from disparate periods of England’s past, in sincere Christmas tradition Salmonweir’s spirits set aside differences of culture and belief in order to come together for the sake of the greater good, and that’s an example sorely needed in today’s increasingly hostile and polarized world.

So, remember, erstwhile traveler: the next time you fancy getting away from it all, make Salmonweir your destination for a Yuletide trip! The atmosphere is welcoming, the scenery breathtaking, and the locals welcoming to all. Don’t be afraid! We promise they won’t haunt you!

I give A Salmonweird Sleighing a well-deserved 4.5 (out of 5) on my Fang Scale. I can’t wait to see what hilariously horrifying hijinks arise when a trio of film crews descend on the village in the series’ next installment, Studio Salmonweird. Bring on the mischief, Mr. Mason!

4.5 / 5.0