Lucky Girl, How I Became A Horror Writer: A Krampus Story by M. Rickert
Tordotcom (September 2022)
108 pages; $13.69 paperback; $4.99 e-book
Reviewed by Haley Newlin
The holiday season screams merriment and cheer, a time for friends and family, and a time to compartmentalize evil. But what if something far more sinister than an old family spat is at work? We’ve heard its name and feared its wicked horns, obscene tongue, and fiendish fangs: Krampus.
In Lucky Girl, How I Became a Horror Writer: A Krampus Story, M. Rickert calls upon those exiled during the holidays — and apparently in coffee houses, too, as they came together when each of them sat alone over their teas and lattes. Ro, a struggling writer isolated in her grief, invites these new friends over for a mock Christmas party. She suggests they all tell a ghost story. Here, Rickert got me. The dread of the small slights between the friends, and ambiguity toward making the party an annual thing, I smiled. Rickert set me up for a clever tale of suspense, Agatha Christie style.
Grayson, the most distinguished in the group, conjures a story about his father upholding the old traditions of Christmas, particularly the “threat of Krampus at every St. Nicholas Day’s approach.”
Not to mention Grayson claims his childhood home is haunted, recalling the bedevilment of witches and entering the bowels beneath the “forbidden church” on the grounds. This story is an ice-cold blast that summons readers into a blackened and bloodied betrayal and haunting mystery.
When Ro and the gang receive an invite to Grayson’s estate the following year, the old Krampus tale awakens, revealing that even evil people can do good things under the veil of normalcy. No one is safe.
Though twisted and initially enthralling, Lucky Girl forgot itself at times and stumbled through the plot progression and climax. In each story beat, when a character is missing or foul play is suspected, Rickert pulls the plug before the spark of I-need-to-know-what-happens-
Despite that quick ending, Lucky Girl is a sly, somber take on the Krampus legend. It’s a black cloud of flies accompanying a practiced master of death.