TITLE: THE SANTA HEIST and other Christmas stories
BY: JOHN L. FRENCH & PATRICK THOMAS
PUBLISHED BY: BOLD VENTURE PRESS
REVIEW COPY SENT BY AUTHOR
REVIEW BY IDA VEGA-LANDOW
Christmas came early this year for me and other fans of urban fantasy, especially those who like John L. French and Patrick Thomas. “The Santa Heist and other Christmas stories” is a collection of stories about Christmas, written in the irreverent, smart-alecky style of our boy Patrick, and his colleague John L. French, whose stories have a more serious tone and are much darker. His past as a crime scene supervisor shows in the way he depicts the dark side of humanity without flinching. Both of them collaborated on the cover story, “The Santa Heist”, about a gang of henchmen who decide to sleigh-jack Santa so the poor kids in Harbor City can have a happy Christmas for once, without having to settle for the cheap, knockoff toys. The rest of the stories run the gamut from sad to glad.
In French’s “All I Want for Christmas”, an abusive husband and father gets his just deserts after his young son’s letter to Santa is delivered to Satan by mistake, because of an innocent spelling error by the child. Bianca Jones, French’s badass detective who took on the Devil and won, meets him once again as a confidential informant in “A Gift Freely Given”, as he lets her know about a plot to steal certain religious relics from the local museum, particularly one that may have been in the stable the night Jesus was born. Speaking of that night, a French story that moved me to tears, “The Inner Light”, is about the angel who guarded Mary through her pregnancy and single-backhandedly defeated the five demons sent to destroy the Christ child on that blessed night. You wouldn’t think a sweet, black angel with ash gray wings was a match for five powerful demons, but the inner light of her faith was enough to help her route them all, though it left her badly wounded.
Thomas’s stories provide a more light-hearted contrast, with the exception of one that sent shivers down my spine at the conclusion; “Out of Bethlehem”, which tells us what happened to the babies left in Bethlehem after the Holy Family escaped to Egypt. Every Christian knows about the slaughter of the innocents, when King Herod sent his soldiers to Bethlehem to kill every baby boy under the age of two, to rid himself of the newborn King of the Jews. One baby boy escapes the slaughter thanks to an angel of the Lord who rescues the mother from the Roman soldiers pursuing her. He tells the mother that her son has “a great destiny to complete”, but when I found out who her son was, I wondered whether this was the Angel of Death. Two of Patrick’s Christmas stories from his Murphy’s Lore series are reprinted here, “Pining Away” starring Agent Karver and his partner Mandy Cobb from the Department of Mystic Affairs, where they take on a dryad who murdered a suburban family after they unknowingly chopped down her tree to decorate it for Christmas, and “Hell’s Covenant”, with the gang from Bulfinche’s Pub fighting to protect Toni, their waitress, from the demon she unknowingly made a bargain with for shelter, in exchange for her unborn baby.
These two gentlemen alternate between serious and humorous stories, even the serious ones frequently containing a note of humor, like Patrick’s puns and French’s reference to Rocky and Bullwinkle in “Joy to the World”, where the angel who saved Baby Jesus makes an encore appearance. I enjoyed every story, even the ones that made me sad, because Christmas is about joy and sorrow and life and death, something people frequently forget in their greed for gifts and their desire to one-up everyone else in the giving and receiving of gifts. So if you’re looking for a good read for Christmas, get a copy of “The Santa Heist” for yourself or for someone you love who loves Christmas. It’s dedicated to “all those who honor Christmas in their hearts and who try to keep it all the year”, a quote from Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol”, which is represented here by “Saving Marley”, a story by John French. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good read!