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Monday, December 13, 2010


The Fat Man: a Tale of North Pole Noir
Ken Harmon
Dutton, 2010

A tough-guy elf is framed for murder in a North Pole mystery that is so hard-boiled that it makes Raymond Chandler look like chick-lit. In a world where elves live for hundreds of years, reindeer are playful bullies, and every Christmas story ever told is represented, this humorous but dark story provides something different for holiday reading.

Fired from his longtime job as captain and founder of the Coal Patrol, Gumdrop Coal , one of the original elves, is angry. He used to care about his job helping Santa bring toys to all the children of the world. But somewhere along the way things went sour for Gumdrop. Maybe it was delivering one too many lumps of coal for the Naughty List. Maybe it's the conspiracy against Christmas that he's starting to sense down every chimney. Either way, he’s started hitting the eggnog a little too much and brooding over a certain saucy female reporter. To make himself feel better, Gumdrop decides to give a serious wakeup call to parents who can't keep their vile offspring from landing on the Naughty List. But when one parent winds up dead, his eye shot out with a Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model BB gun, Gumdrop Coal must learn who framed him and why. Along the way he'll escape the life-sucking plants of the Mistletoe Forrest, battle the infamous Tannenbomb Giant, and survive a close encounter with twelve very angry drummers and their violent friends. The horrible truth lurking behind the gingerbread doors of Kringle Town could spell the end of Christmas-and of the fat man himself.

Although the author tries to add some nice words about Christmas spirit and the true meaning of the holiday, this is a very dark and disturbing story. Funny, but disturbing. The many references to other Christmas stories, like It’s a Wonderful Life, The Christmas Story, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Twelve Days of Christmas, etc., become tedious about halfway through the book. The plot is slight, the characters are stereotypical, and the action is about as exciting as a bowl full of jelly, but the writing is witty and the dialogue snappy. Personally, I would rather read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever if I needed a literary shot of holiday joy.

This is the author’s first novel.


Other titles you may enjoy:

The Stupidest Angel: a heartwarming tale of Christmas Terror by Christopher Moore (2004)
It's Christmastime in Pine Cove. Lena Marquez rings the bell for the Salvation Army, and when ex-husband Dale Pearson won't part with his pocket change, she decides to exact revenge. Meanwhile, while rushing home from a friend's house in the dark one night, little Joshua Barker, age seven, sees a woman kill Santa with a shovel. (But it wasn't Santa; it was Dale.) A small boy makes a simple Christmas wish: Please, Santa, come back from the dead. The angel Raziel, not the brightest halo in heaven, is sent to Earth and accidentally revives the entire Pine Cove graveyard. Now under attack by the undead, the town has to put aside differences, bind together, and discover the true meaning of "Christmas spirit."

Skipping Christmas by John Grisham (2001)
Luther and Nora Krank have decided to set sail on a Caribbean cruise on December 25th and skip Christmas. They are about to discover that their decision brings enormous consequences--and isn't half as easy as they imagined.

Visions of Sugar Plums by Janet Evanovich (2002)
A holiday adventure finds Stephanie Plum struggling to remove an intruder from her apartment and falling for a mysterious newcomer.

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