by Chris F. Holm
Angry Robot Books (2012)
Despite enjoying Dead Harvest, the first book in Holm's Collector series, I thought there were parts kept a little too vague for my liking, and Sam's world wasn't explored as fully as it could have been. Before picking up to read The Wrong Goodbye, I hoped Holm would dive a little deeper into that world. Well, he did--and then some.
Sam Thornton is on a bit of a probation with his handlers. Sure, he prevented a holy war between Heaven and Hell, saved an innocent soul from being collected, but you don't cross the boss. Lilith, his infernal handler, has a new soul for him collect, and he's a real nasty bugger too. But when Sam heads into the jungle to snag himself a drug lord's condemned soul, all he finds is a lot of corpses and a missing soul, and Sam is pretty sure it's been stolen by a fellow collector. Trying to save an innocent soul during the first go-round was dangerous enough, but turns out that was a cake-walk compared to the escalating hellstorm that Sam has to navigate to recover a condemned one.
While the book works well as a stand-alone, you'll definitely have a better appreciation for storyline in The Wrong Goodbye if you've already read Dead Harvest. Holm does a lot to reacquaint readers with the supporting players in the story, as well as the rules of the universe he's created here. Sam is dead after all, and it's his own spirit that has to flit in and out of bodies--basically possessing newly deceased people rather than contending with live people who might not take kindly to being possessed. As for the stakes raised by not delivering the bad guy's soul on time, the Deliverants were an especially creepy addition to the world. Imagine a swarm of various insects with a collective consciousness chasing you down if you're late in bringing them the soul they're owed. Yeah, and that's just one of the headaches Sam has to deal with.
Sam spent much of the first book being pursued, but this novel has him as the one doing all the chasing. The ticking clock comes in two-fold, as he has a deadline to get the missing soul back to the Deliverants before they put the kibosh on him, and the added hangup when he starts to figure out what Danny has planned for the soul, which could put the kibosh on everyone on earth. Plus, there's the added comedy of Sam's conscripted aide, Gio, a dead gangster whose soul Sam has stuffed into an obese derelict and is Sam's best chance at tracking down Danny and the missing soul. The dynamic there, especially when they cross paths with a drunk tycoon named Roscoe, may have been the most entertaining parts of the story.
The blend of hard-boiled mystery and high-octane fantasy make The Wrong Goodbye a tremendous novel that surpasses Dead Harvest and sets a pretty high bar for the third book in the series, The Big Reap. If you like urban fantasy with touches of noir and pugnacity, you really need to check this series out. It started out good and quickly turning to great.
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