Lolly's Library's Reviews > The Fat Man: A Tale of North Pole Noir

The Fat Man by Ken Harmon
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's review
Nov 25, 2010

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bookshelves: humor, amateur-sleuth-mys-suspense

2.5 stars
The first two-thirds of this book started out in a rip-roaring manner, easily earning it a four-, even five-star rating for its originality and storytelling. The back third, however, fell off steeply into one- and two-star territory as the story descended into schmaltz and religious proselytizing. I realize there will be some well-trodden referrals to Christianity in association with Christmas (and as much as that bugs me, have no fear, I'm not going to give a dissertation on the fact that Christmas is a usurpation and amalgamation of various pagan midwinter celebrations and festivals, done so in an attempt to bring those pagans in line with the new dominant religion of Christianity), but the heavy-handed way in which they ruled the last third of the book, thereby giving the story a rather weak ending, felt too out-of-character for the genre. The reader is moved out of a Raymond Chandler-esque North Pole and into a suffocatingly preachy Thomas Kincade winter wonderland. What could've been an original take on noir, reminiscent of Jasper Fforde's Nursery Crime series, ended up a thinly-veiled reference to the joys of having faith in God. That's not what I had been anticipating at the start of the story. However, if that sounds like something right up your Christmas tree (which is actually based on the ancient Egyptian ritual of bringing palm fronds into the house at midwinter to symbolize renewal, but that kind of info really belongs in my aforementioned dissertation, which I'm not writing...really I'm not), give this peppermint twist of a tale a try.
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Reading Progress

November 25, 2010 – Started Reading
November 25, 2010 – Shelved
November 25, 2010 –
page 35
12.64% "Put Raymond Chandler and Burl Ives in a blender and this is what you get. Freakin' hilarious!"
November 26, 2010 – Shelved as: humor
November 26, 2010 – Shelved as: amateur-sleuth-mys-suspense
November 26, 2010 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Matt (new)

Matt You know after seeing you were reading this, and then reading the synopsis I was pretty intrigued. Of course I just read your review and there is nothing I hate more than a book that loses its way ending in a lackluster fashion- the particular ending you discuss is not one I would be able to tolerate. The latter is a damn shame because it truly sounds like a great concept ruined by religious dogma! Namaste.

Lolly's Library I know, that's what I thought: What a great concept! The author mentions other holiday-themed locales in the book, most particularly Halloween Town, and I thought, wow, this could be a series! I'd love to see a second holiday noir set in Halloween Town. That was right before the book started going downhill and by the time I got to the end, I was thinking more along the lines of what a waste of a great idea. And writing talent, because up until that time, Harmon's prose was crisp and snappy, truly following in the footsteps of Raymond Chander; you could almost hear the voices of Bogart and Bacall, or in my case, Grant and Russell, in the repartee between Gumdrop Coal and his love interest and ace newspaper reporter, Rosebud Jubilee.

Brian Hey Laura, I read your review after finally posting my own this morning and I'm with you on this. I began to get suspicious when Gumdrop encountered the evil mistletoe in the forest. When the "Child" entered the picture I suspected I had been snookered. By the time Gumdrop ran the gauntlet of the Twelve Days of Christmas Harmon had lost me. I finished the thing only because I hate to leave a novel unfinished. Quite a disappointment in the end. Oh, and Merry Christmas! :)

Lolly's Library Strangely enough, the evil mistletoe didn't arouse my suspicions (although it should've, looking back on it; call it my over-developed suspension of disbelief--it gets me into trouble all the time). I was willing to overlook the many mentions of "the Child" until the entire story broke down into syrupy sermons. I have no problem leaving a novel unfinished, but I stuck it out with this one because I kept hoping Harmon would redeem himself in the end. Sadly, he didn't. What a shame. Oh, and Merry Christmas to you, too! :D

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