Okay, I'm going to admit that when I first began reading A Death at the North Pole, I was a bit hesitant. This hesitation was not because I was worried the story would be bad, but the idea of reading about the horrific murder of an all important icon - yes, Santa Clause - was rather disturbing to me. I, however, was determined to get past this and plunged on. After completing the book, reading the final word and letting the story swirl around in my brain, I had to release a long suffered sigh. A Death at the North Pole was just not a great story, nor a good story. It was, quite frankly, bordering on excellent.
By taking an iconic figure and centering an evil plot and graphic murder around him, as well as all that he stands for, is a very unique and intriguing idea. It also makes for a hard-to-put-down story that will leave readers straining long into the night to discover what happens next.
A Death at the North Pole introduces us to Detective Lauren Bruni. Lauren is a tough as nails, kick butt woman that takes no guff nor does she believe in fantastical ideas. So when faced with mini people claiming to be elves and a victim who is supposedly Santa Clause, Lauren is feeling anything but open-minded. Needless to say, the main character does not come off very fuzzy and warm, nor remotely likable in the beginning. As the story progresses, however, that changes - at least it did for me. The author allows readers to get to know Lauren a bit better through shedding light on her past, as well as humanizing her a bit more through her actions. Speaking of actions, the story itself is highly entertaining, a bit far-fetched (though that is the idea), twisting, turning and, yes, graphically grotesque at times. Mr. Andre does a marvelous job intertwining horror, paranormal, fantasy as well as lessons that things are not always what they seem - but rather, those things that are not obvious, are the most real.
Good vs. evil seems to be the overall foundation to both this story, A Death at the North Pole, as well as the follow-up, The Black Chronicles: Cry of the Fallen. Lauren holds an all-important key to overcoming the takeover of the purist of evil. Of this, however, she is clueless. All Lauren knows is the pain of loss and injustice, throwing herself into her job of tracking down killers and solving crimes.
Mr. Andre does a fantastic job writing visually - in a style that allows the reader to truly see what is going on, through his words and technique. Plot and story development are excellent and there is a definite shock value to Mr. Andre's writing.
A Death at the North Pole is complete with ghouls, fairies, elves and evil ultimately incarnate. Joel M. Andre has woven a tale that will not only entertain, but will leave the reader thinking and contemplating. A Death at the North Pole is dark entertainment with depth.
*As a side note, I wanted to mention that I have previously read and reviewed The Black Chronicles: Cry of the Fallen. While I enjoyed the story, I felt it lacking in character depth with Lauren. After reading A Death at the North Pole, however, that has changed. Why did I mention this? For the simple fact that those who have yet to read Joel M. Andre, I feel that by reading this book prior to Cry of the Fallen will truly shed light on Lauren and make for an even more enjoyable read.