Ro, a struggling writer, knows all too well the pain and solitude that holiday festivities can awaken. When she meets four people at the local diner―all of them strangers and as lonely as Ro is―she invites them to an impromptu Christmas dinner. And when that party seems in danger of an early end, she suggests they each tell a ghost story. One that’s seasonally appropriate.
But Ro will come to learn that the horrors hidden in a Christmas tale―or one’s past―can never be tamed once unleashed.
“Lucky Girl,” by M.Rickert is a pocket-rocket novella that can be devoured in one sitting. It’s full of depth, mystery and surprises, like a creepy advent calendar, but instead of chocolates, you get goosebumps with every door you open.
We predominantly follow Ro, a successful horror writer with a traumatic past. Whilst at college, she finds herself in the diner on campus, along with four other lonely graduates: Adrienne, Grayson, Keith and Lena. An impromptu Christmas gathering, and the start of a short-lived tradition begins that night… an event that will change all of their lives forever.
When conversation comes to a standstill, Ro suggests the group exchange ghost stories, and whilst valiant efforts are made by Ro, Lena and Keith- Grayson steals the show with his spine-chilling tale of “The Krampus,” which leaves his peers pondering as to whether his descriptions of dripping saliva and razor-sharp horns are grounded in reality.
Years later the group reunite at Grayson’s mansion for a Christmas gathering, past and present collide and it’s revealed there may have indeed been a kernel of truth to Grayson’s story…
The infamous Krampus figure is rooted in Alpine folklore, and is a demonic companion to Saint Nick himself. On Krampusnacht (December 5th) Santa rewards the good kids, whilst Krampus punishes the naughty ones with swats from birch branches… even going as far as to abduct them in some stories. The Krampus that appears in “Lucky Girl,” is much more feral and traditionally “beast-like,” than in most stories. Interestingly it plays a rather insignificant role, and is only relevant to one strand of what can only be described as a macabre tapestry. Perhaps my only issue is that the cover and blurb seem to advertise the Krampus as an integral part of the story- and it’s simply not.
That being said, this is perfect for any true-crime junkies wanting to dip their toes into fiction over Christmas, it has all the gory details, shocking developments, and is complete with its very own psychopath.
The structure of this novella is fragmented, and regularly jumps forward and backward in time. I appreciate this adds a level of complexity that some readers may not appreciate, however I felt this really worked. From the very start, there’s a subtle backdrop of dread and unease, and this builds and builds as more context is added. This means that when Ro’s already traumatic existence completely implodes at the very end, it REALLY packs a punch.
All in all “Lucky Girl,” is a small-commitment of 2-3 hours that I feel we should all make this Christmas. The spirit of the holiday season is seamlessly blended with a generous serving of suspense and surprise, resulting in a literary treat that any horror reader would be thrilled to receive in their Christmas stocking.