‘Tis the season to enjoy the holidays the way fans of zombie stories should—with a nice (and a little bit naughty) compact tale by one of the most diverse authors in the business. Naughty and Nice (Dan Shamble, Zombie PI Mini) by Kevin J. Anderson is the latest short story following the exploits of private investigator Dan “Shamble” Chambeaux, the lead character in Anderson’s latest successful series of novels (Death Warmed Over, Unnatural Acts, Hair Raising, soon to be released Slimy Underbelly along with some other shorts).
In the mold of the old Mickey Spillane novels, the private investigator observes everything around him with a unique perspective where the noticeable details eventually become the clues to solving the crime. In this case, a distraught Santa Claus enters Shamble’s office needing help finding his stolen Naughty and Nice list of names. If the list is not found before Christmas Eve, Santa will not be able to make his deliveries, bringing an end to the holiday as we knew it—or we thought we knew. So it is up to Shamble to save Christmas.
Unlike some of the other works listed under the same name (careful searching your favorite on-line bookstore for the title Naughty & Nice, at least not at work anyway), this is in fact a charming story suitable for readers of all ages. Yes, it has zombies, ghosts, werewolves and other scary little monsters, but most of them are entertaining and do not resemble anything we might conjure up in our worst nightmares. Even the bad guys have enough charismatic flare to allow the reader to enjoy their presence.
Don’t worry if you haven’t read any of the previous Dan Shambles stories (though you may be enticed to do so after reading this story). Anderson provides just enough back-story for the reader to follow the theme while keeping pace with the mystery of finding Santa’s list.
Perhaps the most notable aspect of this story is the strong usage of holiday season references in an entirely new light. The reference to Jingle Bell Rock made me laugh out loud, while some of the other common phrases Anderson twisted into puns made me moan like some of the undead characters in the story. Yet, the humor never draws the reader away from the plot. The characters are fun, the story is fun, and unless your name is Scrooge you will have fun reading Naughty & Nice.