You know it’s a strange year when Serge Storms makes two appearances within a 12-month period. WHEN ELVES ATTACK is Tim Dorsey’s Christmas card to his fans, and like the best Christmas-themed books --- David Morrell’s THE SPY WHO CAME FOR CHRISTMAS comes to mind most immediately --- this is a tale that can be read and enjoyed throughout the entire year.
"WHEN ELVES ATTACK is Tim Dorsey’s Christmas card to his fans, and like the best Christmas-themed books...this is a tale that can be read and enjoyed throughout the entire year."
WHEN ELVES ATTACK is set in Serge’s beloved Florida (it’s impossible to imagine him anywhere else) and finds him and Coleman, his inebriated sidekick, returning to Tampa, the scene of multiple crimes committed by the two. Longtime fans of the duo will be pleased to learn that this latest features the return not only of the redoubtable G-Unit (a set of seasoned citizens whose collective gonzo attitude is somewhat in line with Serge’s) but also the… Well, I won’t tell you, but a hint will suffice: a great deal of the book takes place on Triggerfish Lane.
The proceedings kick off with a bang, albeit a hilariously predictable one, with Serge administering an ingenious but brutal rough justice to a particularly despicable cad over the course of a Thanksgiving weekend. Serge and Coleman move on to a shopping mall from there, utilizing disguises (they are the elves of the book’s title) combined with impulsive behavior and Serge’s own unique sense of justice to create a chain reaction ending in chaos. Well, that’s not quite true. Serge acts as an unwelcome but ultimately successful mediator in a couple of domestic situations --- fathers of teenage girls will stand up and cheer over one of them, and indeed may be tempted to emulate Serge’s actions --- and creates and solves a couple of employment concerns with his own trademark rough touch.
Is WHEN ELVES ATTACK predictable? Of course it is. Part of the charm of these books is that they follow a rough formula. Serge encounters a crime (as he would define it, as opposed to one defined by statute), apprehends the offender, and administers justice. What is key here is that Dorsey never seems to run out of new and unique ways for his deranged creation to dry up the gene pools of the rude and the inconsiderate. Who among us hasn’t dreamed, at least once, of administering a rough comeuppance to the driver who cuts you off in traffic (or doesn’t wave a thank you when you let him in), or to the litterer, or to the shopper in the 12 items or less line who is numerically challenged? Don’t everyone raise your hands at once. Another element that makes this series so great and so readable is Dorsey’s love-hate relationship with the Sunshine State. His research of Florida’s history and penchant for sprinkling arcane trivia throughout his books make each and every one a keeper.
That the novel comes up a bit short in the historical element department, at least when compared to his other work, is not entirely surprising, given that WHEN ELVES ATTACK is of somewhat shorter length than the previous books in the series. But who’s complaining, especially when it’s the second Storms book in one year? Count your blessings, and read WHEN ELVES ATTACK.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 8, 2011
When Elves Attack: A Joyous Christmas Greeting from the Criminal Nutbars of the Sunshine State