Review: Secret Santa by Andrew Shaffer

Rating: 8/10


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.


Secret Santa was a blast to read, short, but an interesting YA paranormal mystery. This 216 pages novella mixed the spirit of Christmas with the mysteries of a demonized doll and peppered it with a dose of humour. The principal character, Lussi, was well developed — we had a great sense of who she was — her reasoning. This made the ride all the sweeter. I especially loved the publishing world backstory, which represented a proper setup for the narrative. 

A part of me wished it was a longer read, going deeper into the history of the doll or explored further what it had done to its previous owners. And the short format of the book is the primary reason I didn’t give this story a higher score. Although the copy I got had some formatting issues on Kindle, the story quickly involved me, willing to uncover the big enigma at the heart of this page turner. However, for its young adult audience — which I think is the aim — the book has the ideal length to entertain and scare teenagers out of their socks.

My favorite part of the book was the author’s writing style, quirky yet simple. He used stronger words and verbs instead of adverbs all over-the-place. He also sprinkled the story with funny moments that drove me to chuckle, which is a rarity for the genre. In summary, Secret Santa is a quick read for anyone that wants a riddle wrapped into an entertaining paperback to devour at the beach or during your next long distance flight.

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