Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Wrong Goodbye, by Chris F. Holm

I must’ve spent a half an hour sitting there, marveling at the presumption, the sheer arrogance that pervaded every grisly slice. Eventually, though, I rose and left the camp behind, plunging once more into the jungle – this time heading south.

Toward Bogotá.

Toward Danny.

The return of Chris F. Holm's Soul Collector Sam Thornton, last seen in Dead Harvest, is a welcome one.  He may have averted a war, and completely screwed up a large section of New York City, but Sam enters The Wrong Goodbye a marked man.  Like a cosmic game of whack-a-mole, the angels and demons behind the plot have their eye out for Sam; ready to bop him on the head if he shows on their radar. Sam just wants to stay out of sight, but unfortunately for him, fate and an old friend have something else in mind.

Sam's mission is to collect the soul of a particularly nasty piece of work named Varela.  When Sam makes it to Varela's jungle hideout, he finds the man dead and his soul taken.  A rival collector, and old friend of Sam's, named Danny has taken the soul and offers it back to Sam in exchange for help.  The thing is, this is only the first stage of a long plan that could inadvertently bring about the end of the world.  Along for the ride is a Vegas hitman named Gio who had his soul repossessed, but is now inhabiting the body of an overweight food mogul.  (Bonus points for naming him Abe Froman. Yes, he is the Sausage King of Chicago).

With the second Collector novel, Holm both expands and enriches the world he so vividly created in Dead Harvest.  No longer confined to New York, Sam hops from Bogota to Chicago to Los Angeles, with some scenic stops in the American Southwest along the way. We learn more of the rules of the Collection game and about a group of beings called Deliverants.  Sam's first encounter with these nasty buggers is both creepy and memorable (warning: if you're afraid of bugs, this could give you nightmares for days).  Oh, and instead of a giant-ass fight on a helicopter, this book features a car chase on an LA freeway - complete with a body hop right in the middle of it.

Like the Dead Harvest/Red Harvest connection, this book's title is an homage to Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye.  Chandler's novel is in part a meditation on the relationship between Marlowe and a drunk named Terry Lennox and the importance Marlowe puts on their friendship. Anyone who's read that novel knows what happens to this friendship.  I can't help but think Sam and Danny's relationship is more than a little inspired by The Long Goodbye, considering Holm chose it as his title inspiration.

The upcoming third book in the series is titled The Big Reap (easy money on being inspired by Chandler's The Big Sleep) and I can't wait for it.

The Collector Series is highly recommended.

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