Book Reviews

Review: Secret Santa by Andrew Shaffer

Secret Santa by Andrew Shaffer


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.


As a weapon against proverbial 1980s publishing houses, Shaffer designs a paranormal, fun and methodic story about Lussi. She’s looking to get a job in a ol’ rackety publishing firm. Upon her interview with the firm, two things happen: One, the old man croaks and she discovers something very odd about an German artifact that falls out of a box. Distress signals about the way Mr. Blackwood is acting towards her, just before his death, gives her solid hints that something is terribly wrong. This is where the classic horror red flags should lead a person out of a situation. Instead, Lussi proceeds into a dark, nightmareish battle against the evil that holds the Blackwood-Patterson firm together to hold her shaky position in the company.

As some interesting narration at the end of the book states, genres these days are muddy to say the least. Let’s attempt to clear that up. This is fun horror: nothing particularly gruesome or profane, although there was a baby Jesus joke ( I didn’t mind the joke based off of the context ). Aside from that, this is all-out fun with tons of quirky satire and twists and turns that deliver a solid read if you are into getting some scary-ish humor in for the holidays. I think the scariest part for me had to do with an abrupt disorganization of what’s referred to as a slush pile, the stack of manuscripts in the basement, where I end up saying to myself, “Oh my god. Do they need help getting them all put back together in the right order?” Ha, ha.

“She dug her nails into her palms. Her patience had worn thin as the veil between worlds on All Hallow’s Eve. Mercurial artists. Clandestine meetings. Trigger happy receptionists. Small mammals in serious need of house training. Lunch thieves. Pranksters. The more she ran over the past week in her mind, the more she felt herself slipping into the darkness.” – Shaffer, Secret Santa, page 105