Review: Dead Harvest (4.5/5) and The Wrong Goodbye by Chris F. Holm (4/5)

Never judge a book by its cover …

… unless it is part of Chris F. Holm’s The Collector series.

The titles summon memories of classic hard-boiled noir in apparent homage to Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest and Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye. [The 3rd installment, The Big Reap provides a similar tip of the hat to Chandler’s The Big Sleep.]

Then look at the beautiful cover design: well-worn, long-loved pulp (complete with creases and stains), mingled with the supernatural and brought forward to the 21st century.

The only thing I wanted to do more than admire these covers was to open the bloody things up to get inside.

Sam Thornton is a collection agent from Hell.

No, really, he is.

Sam is a 1950s good-bad-guy operating in the 21st century. He collects the souls of the damned for delivery to Hell.

Sam has a sympathetic backstory and is very likeable. Oh, and he is conflicted. And determined. He is a well-conceived and very-well-written anti-hero.

Dead Harvest from Angry Robot Books

The Wrong Goodbye from Angry Robot Books

Dead Harvest

Dead Harvest jumps right into it with Sam being dispatched to collect the soul of Kate MacNeil who was damned for butchering her whole family. When he comes to collect her, however, Sam sees only a pure soul. Something is wrong with the scenario, so he does the unthinkable and says “No.”

From there, the chase is on. Pursued by the servants of both Heaven and Hell, Sam and Kate fight to survive (Sam’s immortality notwithstanding) and try to discover the truth. And they have to do so while saving the world and avoiding the apocalypse.

The pace never lets up and there really isn’t any place for the reader to rest, even during the flashbacks that are skilfully woven into the storyline, carefully revealing how Sam came to be a Collector and quietly building our sympathy.

A great protagonist, powerful bad guys (you have to love Bishop, the bad guy who can be anybody), pacing, tension and some really clever twists (the need for, and effects of, meatsuits is particularly cool) make this one of my favourite books.

After reading Dead Harvest, I was left with two questions:

  • What the hell was up with the cat statue?
  • How soon could I get my grubby paws on The Wrong Goodbye?
The Wrong Goodbye

Still in trouble from his actions in Dead Harvest, Sam is sent for the soul of a brutal Columbian drug lord. When he arrives to collect, he finds the soul (which is his responsibility and only he is supposed to collect) missing: taken by Sam’s friend Danny.

Did I mention that Collectors aren’t supposed to have friends?

Where Dead Harvest centred on Good vs. Evil, The Wrong Goodbye focuses on friendship and fellowship. With the bosses watching closely and his freedom at stake, Sam chases old friends, aided in his pursuit by an oddball (how else would you describe a recently-deceased hoodlum, a Texas oil man and a 7-foot transsexual fortune teller?) assortment of new friends.

Pacing is brisk (but not overwhelming), the action is intense (but not distracting) and, once again, the flashbacks are well-placed and reveal more of Sam, serving to increase our sympathy for him even further.

I loved this book almost as much as I loved Dead Harvest and my only regret is that I have a wait a while for the return of Sam Thornton.

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