Title: Secret Santa
Author: Andrew Shaffer
Publisher: Quirk Books
Publication Date: 17/11/2020
Comment: I was given a free e-copy by Netgalley and then a free physical copy by Quirk books and @mybookishlife in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Unless I was possessed which- given it’s 2020, I mean this year anything is possible, right?
The Office meets Stephen King, dressed up in holiday tinsel, in this fun, festive, and frightening horror-comedy set during the horror publishing boom of the ’80s, by New York Times best-selling satirist Andrew Shaffer.
Out of work for months, Lussi Meyer is desperate to work anywhere in publishing. Prestigious Blackwood-Patterson isn’t the perfect fit, but a bizarre set of circumstances leads to her hire and a firm mandate: Lussi must find the next horror superstar to compete with Stephen King, Anne Rice, and Peter Straub. It’s the ’80s, after all, and horror is the hottest genre.
But as soon as she arrives, Lussi finds herself the target of her co-workers’ mean-spirited pranks. The hazing reaches its peak during the company’s annual Secret Santa gift exchange, when Lussi receives a demonic-looking object that she recognizes but doesn’t understand. Suddenly, her coworkers begin falling victim to a series of horrific accidents akin to a George Romero movie, and Lussi suspects that her gift is involved. With the help of her former author, the flamboyant Fabien Nightingale, Lussi must track down her anonymous Secret Santa and figure out the true meaning of the cursed object in her possession before it destroys the company—and her soul.
Lussi (Pronounced Lucy) is searching frantically for a job since her old company was bought out by a larger publishing house. She’s even desperate enough to try the prestigious Blackwood-Patterson, even though they haven’t had a book in bestseller list in decades.
Her initial interview isn’t going well until a bizarre set of circumstances means she is hired with one proviso, that she finds the next big name in horror and saves the company, in the next month.
She has handled tight deadlines but this is ridiculous. Not only because the unopened manuscripts are left in towering stacks in the unlit basement, but also her new colleagues aren’t exactly the friendliest bunch.
Her secret Santa even gave her some disgustingly creepy doll instead of an actual present.
And then there is the sudden slew of weird accidents.
Publishing is meant to be cut-throat but not literally!
But as one by one her fellow workers start to be carted away in ambulances, Lussi starts to wonder if her secret Santa gift was meant to be a gift, or a warning.
I remember being a young teen and reading Point Horror books. My favourites were April Fools and The Funhouse and I loved settling down with some tame horror.
This felt like a slightly more grown up Point Horror. Soft enough that teens could read it but with adults instead of annoying teenagers making all of the wrong decisions.
Lussi was a good character and, although she had the usual tendency to disregard any potential paranormal activity around her, at least she was proactive in trying to uncover the mystery surrounding certain events. I liked that she was forward and capable of taking care of herself. She never really had to be rescued and, in fact, did a lot of rescuing herself.
The Raven and the rest of the co-workers were a little one dimensional and maybe a little too blasé about the incidents that kept happening but as the story was focused on Lussi, there wasn’t too much page time devoted to them.
Fabian Nightingale was adorable but somewhat damsel in distress himself. Often I wondered if he was the culprit since he just seemed to turn up when stuff was happening.
There was a great atmosphere of low-level danger and creepiness that permeated the book and the author was very good at setting the scene. The Blackwood building and the stark authoritarian old-fashioned outfits worn by the staff went a long way to adding a sort of Victorian Gothic feel to the story. I loved it.
A very simple yet effective tale with few twists but mainly a straight forward horror story. Like I said it had a feel of Point Horror for a more mature audience and I would put it in a light horror category. It was nice to read something that didn’t rely on gore or shock value and had good old story-telling.
Also THANK THOR for a non first-person narrative point of view!
I would have given it 5 stars but had to drop it down to 4 because of the epilogue. It really didn’t need to be there and sort of spoilt the ending a bit.
Still, it was still highly enjoyable, nostalgic and a lot of fun. Recommended for anyone who loves light horror.