The Dark Side of the North Pole,
This review is from: The Blood in Snowflake Garden (Paperback)
Do you believe in Santa? In an alternative universe the North Pole is not the enchanting frosted Christmas card place everyone would like it to be. In this reality, the North Pole is an industrial complex of dingy factories, churning out masses of toys. Elves have no rights and are basically the worker ants of society; not many reindeer can fly and those that can are worked every inch of their short lives. And as for Santa, think again. Santa is a grief-stricken, guilt-ridden, sentimental old drunk who has let the reins of command slip from his hands. His territory is riven with racism, human/elf conflict, labor problems and worker revolts, and a faltering economy. While Santa surveys his life through the bottom of a bottle, power has surreptitiously been transferred to a shadowy figure, someone who has other ideas for the North Pole, including contracts with major U.S. armaments manufacturers. Detective Max Sneed is dragged out of retirement when Vlad Volsky, the much-loved Premier of gun-free North Pole City, is mysteriously shot to death in Snowflake Garden. He is joined in his investigations by Robert Watson, a journalist for a London newspaper, who is keen to help Max untangle the intricacies of this far from simple murder. The novel echoes the political turmoil of the sixties, in a different kind of Cold War with Santa being the victim of McCarthyism and banned from U.S. airspace for his so called Communist tendencies--delivering toys to children in Russia and the Eastern Bloc countries!
The author succeeds admirably in creating a kind of parallel universe in which the reader can totally believe. The politics, internal bickering, dissatisfaction, dark secrets, and failed lives and loves all serve to enhance the image of a truly dystopian fairy-tale gone horribly wrong. The various characters have complex motives and underlying reasons for their strange behavior. This includes Santa, who might just be the murderer. Max Sneed and Robert Watson find themselves in a veritable labyrinth of conflicting facts and stories. The main characters share a common dark history in which the seeds of the current situation were planted many years ago. The author uses several flashbacks to introduce this backstory but I found this device bogged the story down. The novel would flow better and faster without so much often-extraneous detail behind it. The author has a mordant wit and uses black humor and satire to highlight the sad reality behind the tinsel empire. An enjoyable, thought-provoking read for detective novel fans looking for a different kind of murder.
First reviewed for Readers Favorite by Fiona Ingram