Adapted novel is wise to hilarity and action

UNHOLY NIGHT. By Seth Grahame-Smith. Grand Central. 320 pages. $25.

What do you do after you’ve adapted the classic story of “Pride and Prejudice” and rewritten the history of Abraham Lincoln? You take on the Three Wise Men, naturally.

Seth Grahame-Smith probably is best-known for “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” his take on the Jane Austen classic. He is an unusual author in that his tone and syntax shift with his subject matter. His latest novel, “Unholy Night,” is no exception.

The story follows three unlikely heroes who become known as the Three Wise Men of biblical lore. But Balthazar, Melchyor and Gaspar are nothing more than common thieves and criminals when they escape the clutches of King Herod and flee to Bethlehem to hide.

For those unfamiliar with the Bible story, this is where they encounter a shepherd named Joseph, his wife, Mary, and their newborn son, baby Jesus.

The most impressive thing about “Unholy Night” is how Smith manages to put his own twist on the story of the birth of Jesus without being irreverent. That’s not to say it isn’t a little cheeky or highly entertaining. Smith’s focus is primarily on the “Wise Men,” and their story is as action-packed as it is hilarious.

Also impressive is how Smith adapts his writing style to accommodate the biblical context of his story. His characters’ dialogue and his descriptions of the towns and cities flow with an archaic language and syntax.

The only downside to reading “Unholy Night” is that you might have trouble telling where the facts stop and the fiction begins.

Reviewer Brindy McNair, an editor for The Post and Courier