The Fat Man by Ken Harmon is a tale of North Pole Noir. Gumdrop Coal has lost his position on Santa's Coal Patrol, and he's not about to take it lying down. Furious that naughty children will be rewarded with gifts for their bad behavior, Gumdrop decides to teach the parents a lesson they'll never forget, but when someone is murdered, the evidence all points to Gumdrop, and he'll have to take it on the lam to prove his innocence, but who can he trust when all of Kringle Town seems to be in the scam? Harmon has created a new and ingenious genre for Christmas: tongue-in-cheek noir. With the hard-boiled dialogue and plot of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, there are plenty of good-lookin' dames and back-stabbing, two-timing jerks. Then Harmon throws in every single Christmas song, movie, story, and fable with a huge dose of humor. He is the master of the one-liner "...he deserved to be beaten every day like a rabid pinata", and I found myself reading several passages out loud to whoever was nearest me, because they were too good not to share. Harmon turns all of the traditional Christmas novellas with their schmaltz and sentimentality on their ear, because not only is the story a great crime novel, it also has unexpected heart. The story does take a hard turn in the last third (so hard it almost creaks a bit), but Harmon keeps it on track for a pleasing conclusion, although I do hold out hopes for a sequel. This would make for a terrific annual series!
Thank you to Dutton for providing me with a copy of this book for review!