Readers don't need to be familiar with Christopher Moore to appreciate his demented holiday fable The Stupidest Angel, but it helps, given that Angel brings together characters from four of his previous novels, then gives them all short shrift. Moore already tends to mistake quirks for character, but with Angel, he even zooms past most of the quirks. At least knowledge of the protagonists' original novels gives them some of the personality and depth they fail to develop in this brief, goofy, gory romp.
It's Christmas season in Pine Cove, California, the touristy, benighted, overmedicated burg of Moore's Practical Demonkeeping and The Lust Lizard Of Melancholy Cove. When divorcées Lena Marquez and Dale Pearson get into a fight in the parking lot of the Thrifty-Mart, it falls to local constable Theo Crowe to separate them, and later to investigate when Lena accidentally kills Dale with a shovel in a dispute over Christmas trees. Though thrown by the accident, Lena instantly falls into an affair with lonely pilot Tucker Case (from 1997's The Island Of The Sequined Love Nun), who's desperate enough for Christmas company that he helps her bury Dale's body and cover up the crime. Meanwhile, the titular angel, the hapless chocoholic Raziel (from 2002's Lamb: The Gospel According To Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal) comes to Earth to perform a holiday miracle, having gotten stuck with the job after losing a game of cards to the Archangel Michael. His haphazard execution of his duty means trouble for everyone in Pine Cove, particularly Theo, who returns to illegal self-medication after his ex-actress wife Molly drops her antipsychotics and begins reverting to the personality of her most famous role: Kendra, Warrior Babe Of The Outland.
The Stupidest Angel lacks the Tom Robbins-like oddball insights and social commentary that marks Moore's best work. But it's steeped in the jolly sick humor that normally complements those insights. Without undervaluing the warm holiday spirit, Moore acknowledges the season's loneliness and mania, and makes the latter a bit more literal than usual in a welter of briskly described relationship dramas, fights, breakups, hookups, and murders. The book is lightweight but lighthearted, and its irreverence, by comparison with the season's usual mawkish sentiment, is as welcome as a particularly entertaining novelty holiday card. More accurately, though, it's the equivalent of the jovial photocopied year-summarizing letters that so many people include in those cards: a short, impersonal roundup of what some familiar people have been up to. It's temporarily diverting and full of seasonal cheer, but easily forgotten once the holiday season has passed.