Probable Claus by Jon L. Breen
Ladies and gentleman, I think what we have here is a screwball comedy version of a legal thriller. How else to account for Santa Claus being put on trouble for killing his own brother? How else to account for big-time lawyers who are just as cheesy as the bad guys? How else to account for well...a crafty, cunning true-blue mystery filled with pop culture asides, including a hilarious nod to treacly Christmas movies.
Jon L. Breen is equally well-known as a writer and a critic. As I've said before I think he's the Anthony Boucher of our time--incisive, unpretentious and steeped in knowledge and love for the mystery genre.
He's just as skilled at creating his own fiction as this very witty novel about a generous rich man man (Santa) who is accused of killing his brother (a selfish man) all because of a theater the bad brother wants to pave over. Or burn down. Or taser. You know how bad rich brothers are--and so does Breen, who makes him well deserving of his fate.
Breen has written and written well virtually every kind of mystery story from fair-clue to hard-boiled to parodies of famous crime writers (look them up; they're a hoot). And all those skills--even a bit of hard-boiled cynicism--can be found on display here.
One of my favorite scenes in the book comes when The Big Boss is explaining to new lawyer about how lawyers bill their time to clients:
“Gordon, you misunderstand me....But it sounds like you’re telling me that every hour I’m awake should be billed to the client.”
“Not necessarily. I’ve come up with some of my best legal strategies when I’m asleep. In dreams, I mean. It can happen.”
A really great read.