Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Sunday Book Review, December 11, 2011: The Spy Who Came for Christmas

Dear and Gentle Readers,

Madame L has decided that we need a new definition for the word "clunker." This book is not badly written, it isn't decrepit or broken down, it isn't a clunker like an old broken-down car; but it clunks along so predictably from one set scene to the next, from one stereotypical character to another, and from one stock Christmas truism to another that Madame L felt like she could have written it herself.

(See Madame L's comments on other books of the "Christmas Story by Famous Author Whose Publishers Want to Make a Quick Buck" genre. Also, by the way, Madame L withdraws her cynical [even though she said it wasn't cynical] proposal to write a stock Christmas story rip-off.)

First set of clunks: It's Christmas Eve.  And a rogue spy is in Santa Fe (which means "Holy Faith"), New Mexico. And he has just rescued an infant, a baby boy, a child of peace, from some terrorists who want to raise the boy to be a suicide bomber. And the streets are closed to vehicles, and it's snowing.

Second set of clunks: The spy stumbles on a white rose, a Christmas rose, in the snow, as he makes his way into a humble adobe home where a woman and boy are waiting fearfully for the return of their drunken and abusive husband/father. The woman and boy eventually come to trust the spy and help him care for the hungry baby.

Third set of clunks: The spy, one of a trio who have taken the ironic code names of Melchior, Caspar, and Belchior, tells the mom and son a spy's version of the Magi from the traditional Christmas story: The Magi are actually Persian spies, come to suss out Herod's intentions and spread disinformation; and Joseph, the earthly father of the Christ child, is involved in a rebellion against Herod's rule.

Fourth set of clunks: The father, after attending a Society of Friends meeting, returns to the house determined to beg his wife and son for forgiveness. The two bad-guy spies outside the house try to trick him into doing something that will end the lives of his wife and son and the newborn baby, but with the help of the rogue spy he figures it out and helps them instead. One of the bad-guy spies is turned to good, and ... But you can guess the rest, can't you, Dear Reader.

"The Spy Who Came for Christmas" was written by David Morrell, the author of the Rambo novel ("First Blood") that was made into such a famous and profitable movie. 

It's available from, used and new, hard-bound and paperback and in the Kindle edition, for prices starting at $0.01 for a used copy. But don't waste your money. It's as satisfying as any of the other clunkers Madame L has read, but the formula simply doesn't work as long as all the clunks keep drowning out the true Christmas spirit. 

If you want to feel that Christmas spirit, go back to the original story. Jesus is born through a miracle to Mary, both shepherds and wise men worship him, and even the evil conniving of the most wicked people on earth cannot kill him...until he has completed his divine mission and realizes that it's time to give up his own life, for all of us. 

That's the true story, and Madame L hopes we'll all stick to it this Christmas season.


AskTheGeologist said...

Tell me you didn't read this round and steaming thing through to the end...

Ellen said...

Thanks for the reminder of the true Christmas story. It does, after all, stand on its own, and I, for one, needed the reminder.