Tired of decking the halls and roasting chestnuts by an open fire? The Fat Man offers a fun, dark twist on the season.Gumdrop Coal, the protagonist of The Fat Man: A Tale of North Pole Noir (Dutton, $20), isn’t your typical elf, just as this new book by Ken Harmon isn’t your typical Christmas tale. In fact, Coal is more likely to be found sitting on a stool at the Blue Christmas Bar than making toys.
Things get ugly when Coal is framed for murder. Suddenly forced into the role of detective, he must discover the truth — for the good of the town, for Christmas and for his life.
The Fat Man has all the standard personalities of a good pulp novel: the vixen love interest, the innocent-as-apple-pie sidekick and plenty of dubious suspects to throw readers off the trail. As you unravel the mystery, part of the fun is trying to keep up with the holiday references that Harmon weaves into the sometimes dark and brooding narrative, including Christmas carol lyrics and cameos by It’s a Wonderful Life characters.
“It’s not all lollipops and root beer. We’ve got baggage,” Coal forewarns readers. “If you don’t think you can take knowing that some of your holiday buddies occasionally pull on the cranky pants, you need to stop reading pronto.”
Or, dive in for the perfect antidote for too much holiday cheer.