- Secret Santa.
- Andrew Shaffer.
- 220 pages.
- My Rating: Hellyeah Book Review.
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.
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Lussi Meyer is a genre-fiction editor who is let go from her job as an editor at the horror publishing house Broken Angel when they are bought out by a larger publishing company. Lussi has been turned down by every other publishing house to which she has applied for a job before she finally lands an interview at the renowned Literary fiction publishing house Blackwood-Patterson. Blackwood-Patterson wasn’t a publishing house that Lussi had ever remotely considered working for, but she has no other option and the interview is her last chance, the last roll of the dice if she is to stay in the publishing industry. If she fails to get the job then, with no savings left and rent to pay it will be back to waiting on tables for Lussi.
Blackwood-Patterson is a distinguished publishing house with a long and storied history. They have a very elitist view, they don’t care about Lussi’s track record of editing multiple horror best sellers that featured and stayed for weeks on end on the ‘New York Times Best Sellers list’. To them ‘paperback‘ is a dirty world and horror, the genre that Lussi loves, specialises in and edits, like the rest of genre fiction, is seen as nothing more than popular drivel, less than and below the level of the literary fiction that they, themselves publish.
Mr Blackwood has no interest in hiring Lussi, she isn’t right for the job or the right fir for Blackwood-Patterson and he already has the ideal candidate picked out and ready for the job. Lussi’s interview is simply going through the motions for the sake of appearances. Fate intervenes and a series of events ends with a subsequent job offer for Lussi to become the new senior editor at Blackwood-Patterson. There is, however a catch, it is the beginning of December and the job is only offered to Lussi on a temporary basis until the end of the fiscal year.
As a company, Blackwood-Patterson is in bad shape, they are old-fashioned, snobbish, mired in the past and they haven’t moved with the times. The company hasn’t turned a profit in years, they are suffering from a lack of sales and it has been even longer since they had a ‘bestseller’ published. If they are to survive, they need to turn things around, they need money and they need a ‘hit’ book. To make the editorial position permanent Lussi is given a specific directive. It’s 1986, horror fiction has exploded, it is the biggest-selling genre and even though genre fiction goes against everything that the stuffy and snobbish publishing house stands for. Lussi is tasked with finding the next horror superstar, the next Stephen King, the next mega-selling book and she needs to sign them to Blackwood-Patterson to save the company.
Lussi is an outsider, a pariah who, hailing from genre fiction comes from a different world to the rest of her peers at Blackwood-Patterson, she doesn’t fit in, office politics are at play, her colleagues aren’t very friendly towards, treating her with a lack of respect and shunning her. In the few weeks that she has been employed she has been the victim of mean-spirited office pranks and hazing as the new member of staff. A Secret Santa, started before Lussi arrived at the publishing house has been running. As a recent recruit, Lussi missed out in taking part, but along with all of the other employees who participated in the festivities a present has been mysteriously left for her beneath the tree. With a sense of bewilderment and dread as to what the gift might be and expecting another cruel prank and a laugh at her expense, at the office Christmas party Lussi reluctantly opens the gift and immediately recognises what is inside. The box contains a Percht, a German devil doll that, on the day of her interview was inside Mr Blackwood’s office. While Lussi knows what the gift is, she doesn’t understand why someone has given her the doll or what it means.
Soon after, bizarre incidents start to plague not just Lussi, but the entirety of Blackwood-Patterson and her colleagues start falling victim to horrific accidents. Lussi begins to suspect that there is evil lurking within the walls of the Blackwood building and that it has something to do with the Percht doll that she received from the anonymous Secret Santa exchange. With the help of Fabien Nightingale, one of her former authors at Broken Angel she sets out to uncover the truth behind the doll and who gave it to her in the hope that it will stop what is happening at Blackwood-Patterson.
There are a few scenes of a darker and more graphic nature in Secret Santa and while it is creepy, it isn’t overly scary or frightening, it’s not that type of horror. Instead, what you get is a short, snappy and fast-paced read that is part black comedy and part family-friendly horror (if you think of the classic film Gremlins then you would be on the right track).
Secret Santa is set in a publishing house during the horror boom of the 1980s and features an eclectic mix of characters, a setting that is extremely atmospheric and a story that is splattered with wry nods and references that bring the decade to life. Simply, it is a highly entertaining dose of nostalgia-filled fun that exudes a dark charm and I loved everything about it.
Pre-order Secret Santa by Andrew Shaffer. released on November 17th, 2020.
Follow The Tattooed Book Geek: