Title: Secret Santa
Author: Andrew Shaffer
Publisher: Quirk Books
Release Date: November 10th, 2020
Page Length: 220
Genre: Horror | Holiday
Age Range: Adult
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.
When I first started writing this review I did a quick check to see if I’d read anything by Andrew Shaffer before – turns out I had back in 2016: Fifty Shames of Earl Grey. Who knew! Anyways, it seems like Shaffer writes mainly satire based books – at least nothing else looked like horror. Too bad, since I thought Shaffer did enjoy it overall.
How was it as a horror? Overall it was good. It didn’t feel overly scary to me – more just unease and creepy. I found Secret Santa to be a quick easy read, prefer for distracting myself for End of the Semester stresses. Although this didn’t give off the crazy slasher vibes that I had been hoping for, it did a great job of giving the reader a sense of unease and knowing something just isn’t right. The atmosphere was definitely 80s, with nostalgia sprinkled throughout. However, majority of the events happen at the office, with the odd scene taking place elsewhere. I had wanted a little more to go wrong before things started to be revealed – more of the unexplained before hand.
Lussi (pronounced Lucy) was an interesting character. You don’t get any deep insight into her as a character, but I still enjoyed reading from her perspective nonetheless. She’s fiesty and loves horror – tasked with saving the company by finding the best book for the publishing company to publish – the next Stephen King. Lussi was also a funny sarcastic character with good quips – although mostly to herself. We don’t interact with many of Lussi’s co-workers – a couple here and there, so you don’t get a true sense of who the characters are outside of Lussi’s interactions. Honestly, that was ok for me. I didn’t miss knowing the inner workings of the characters. I was ok to sit back and just watch the body count rise lol.
Speaking of kills, there was nothing outlandish with them – a least for me – and I never found it overly gruesome – again for me. The connects later made to explain why these people die was perfect and – in my twisted opinion – rather funny. Honestly, the creepiest part was the creature of the book. We only get little glimpses of him – and he’s always inanimate (at least from what I can remember at this point). The lore behind the creature too was interesting. I think that’s what made this book – the added weight of history and lore behind this creature, making it feel more impactful.
Overall, this was a fun quick read and perfect for breaking up all the fantasies and injecting some holiday spirit into my reading. I would highly recommend it for my horror lovers – especially if you enjoy creature ones – but don’t expected to be scared out of your mind from it.