(Reviewed by JD Jung)
For many of us, ushering in the New Year serves as a letdown, following the joyous Christmas season. For Izzy Miller (aka Muddy Rivers, aka Val Virgo), the season represents the low points of his life. Not only did he feel like an outsider looking in as a Jewish kid, but it was also during this season that the disillusioned country singer Rivers gave up his dreams and returned to his hometown of Winnipeg to eventually become Val Virgo, a voice in the world of talk radio. But this particular holiday season will prove to be the worst, as he receives a death threat from a caller on his radio show.
Should the threat be taken seriously? I think so. Just a few weeks ago, packaged bombs went off, killing two people. The “North American Aboriginal Peoples Army of Liberation” (NAAPALM) has taken credit for the murders, but most doubt that the organization even exists. What Val does know is that justice isn’t blind. He also knows that his past has come back to haunt him, but when he tries to “paint a picture of the past, the colors bleed together.” The really problem is that he’s not the only victim.
Christmas Eve Can Kill You is a page-turner that you won’t be able to put down. Along the way, there are numerous players and lots of twists and turns, but not so many that you’ll lose track of the story. In fact, at the end, I smacked myself upside the head, wondering how I didn’t figure it out. I guess I just enjoyed the ride way too much.
It’s not just the plot that makes this an exceptional novel. Author William Marantz makes use of alluring characters and the bleak city itself—or should I say “railroad crossing,” as he refers to Winnipeg—to move the story.
The story also isn’t simply good versus evil. You’ll feel for old Failik Finkelman, a Holocaust survivor who has led a life of crime in his new country. In other words, the characters are actually human (except for Nuisance, whom you’ll learn about later). Among others, you’ll chuckle at Val’s producer, whom he calls the “girl wonder,” since one wonders if she’s a girl. And it’s all told using Val’s cynical voice. The entire novel is written in sardonic style, always with a wry sense of humor.
I first read Christmas Eve Can Kill You in 2010 when it was released. You’ll find it a great way to escape and start the New Year.