Written by Chris F Holm — Chris Holm comes with some serious pedigree as a short story writer. Nominated for the Anthony and Derringer Awards, and winner of the Spinetingler in 2008, his stories have appeared in numerous on-line and print anthologies including The Best American Mystery Stories. A while back, he turned his hand to novels, and his first, Dead Harvest, came out in 2012. Its mix of pulp thrills, noir stylings and supernatural intrigue helped it find an audience in fans across many genres. It was a fast, fun read but its sequel, The Wrong Goodbye, is better.
The Dead Harvest introduced us to Sam Thornton, a good guy who had some bad luck and made some bad decisions. Can you feel the noir seeping into it, yet? He ended up making a Faustian bargain to keep his wife alive. That was many years ago, Sam and his wife have both died, and now he has to do the devil’s bidding. He’s a collector of souls, his spirit inhabiting the recently dead (or meat-suits, as he calls them), as he hunts his mortal prey, the damned. It’s a job that corrodes his soul, he’s already got 60 years behind him, and he’s got an eternity still to come. Against the wishes of his masters, over the years Sam has secretly befriended some other collectors in an effort to keep some shred of humanity. In The Wrong Goodbye, this becomes his downfall.
Sam, Danny, and Ana had, at one time, been particularly close, but because they had to keep their friendship a secret, tensions snowballed and they went their separate ways. Now Sam is dragged back into their world when he is beaten to the soul of his next target. Danny has gotten their first and this is bad news. For a collector not to return with his target’s soul is to face years of the kind of torture only Hell can provide. The question for Sam is why Danny has done this. Is it to get back at Sam for perceived wrongs, or just a cry for help? Is the troubled Danny deep in trouble once again, or do Danny and Ana have something more ambitious and deadly in mind?
In this second book in the Collector series, Holm’s crime roots become more obvious. Sam is a supernatural PI in all but name, a Knight Errant, travelling across the US in search of adventure to prove his human qualities. Chandler’s famous description in The Simple Art of Murder fits Sam to a tee. He has to go down some very mean streets indeed. If that’s a bit too dry for you, let me rephrase. He travels across state lines in a stolen cadillac, a kidnapped stripper-loving oil exec hog-tied in the trunk, hunting demons with a doomed mobster and his transgender, grifter lover. Sound better? Thought so. These books are fast and a hell of a lot of fun, and if the covers don’t win some prizes, then they’ve been robbed. Making them up to look like golden-era paperbacks is a great touch.
This series just keep getting better, and if you like the idea of a detective working for the devil, try this one by Simon Unsworth.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars