Christopher Moore, |
The Stupidest Angel
(William Morrow, 2004)
Some folks will have you believe that The Stupidest Angel is about the violent death of Santa Claus. Or the ghastly resurrection of Santa Claus. Or even a member of the Heavenly Host, an archangel no less, who is a few feathers short of a full wingspan.
But no. Christopher Moore's latest novel is about the people -- the wonderfully quirky, eccentric and at times downright insane people -- of Pine Cove, Calif.
There's Constable Theophilus Crowe, a former pot-head, who's married to Molly Michon, a former B-movie warrior princess who sometimes still hears narration in her head and really should stay on her meds. There's the DEA pilot Tucker Case, a recent transplant to Pine Cove from another, more exotic Moore locale, who has a rare fruit bat as a pet and has fallen hard for Lena Marquez, who has a kind heart and annually poaches rare Monterey pine trees (for the poor, of course) from woodlands owned by Dale Pearson, a mean-spirited land developer and Lena's ex-husband.
And there's 7-year-old Josh Barker, who witnessed the murder of Santa Claus just days before Christmas and is, frankly, a little upset about it. And there's Raziel, an angel who is visiting Pine Cove on a mission of Nativity-like proportions.
When Dale, dressed as Santa after an intoxicating social-club party, catches Lena (a Salvation Army Santa) liberating trees from his property, the resulting tussle ends badly for him, although in Lena's defense it wasn't her fault the shovel was pointing that way. Tuck happens along and helps her deal with the aftermath (because, hey, she's hot and he's lonely); meanwhile, Josh, who's hurrying home from a late-night gaming session, is the sole witness to Santa's apparent murder. And Josh really wishes that Santa were still alive, because it's nearly Christmas Eve and he's been really good this year. And there just happens to be a powerful, albeit dim, archangel in the vicinity....
Moore has conceived a wonderfully witty comedy of errors, taking the spirit of Christmas and grinding it under his boot heel like a noxious cigar. This isn't a holiday tale full of candyfloss and holly, oh ho ho no, it's a twisted whodunnit (without the mystery part, of course, since we know exactly who did what to whom) overlaid on a jittery small town that lives for its Christmas tourism boom.
If, by the end of the book, you haven't laughed your eggnog out through your nose, ask local bartender Mavis Sand to describe the contents of her signature holiday drink, a Slow Comfortable Screw in the Back of Santa's Sleigh. And then let her catch you loitering under her goiter-sized clump of mistletoe....