Another day, another review. And at this rate I’m going to have to change my blog title from “Reviewer” to “Angry Robot (& Imprints) Reviewer”. Long time readers may also recognise the name of the author I’m reviewing too – I reviewed his debut novel a few months back and absolutely raved about it. Now it’s time for round two with The Wrong Goodbye by Chris F Holm.
Meet Sam Thornton, Collector of Souls.
Because of his efforts to avert the Apocalypse, Sam Thornton has been given a second chance – provided he can stick to the straight-and-narrow.
Which sounds all well and good, but when the soul Sam’s sent to collect goes missing, Sam finds himself off the straight-and-narrow pretty quick.
Right up front, let’s be clear. I’m going to make so (a lot) of references to both the first book in The Collector series (Dead Harvest) and my subsequent review of it so if you haven’t read it (the book, shame on you!) or it (my review, eh) then just nod along and make non-committal noises every so often. For those who have read it (the book, you have damn fine taste in books) or it (my review, yay I have readers!) then I have good news and bad news.
The good news is – Sam’s back.
The bad news is – I don’t know how he’s managed it but he’s even more fucked than last time. (Which is really just good news for the reader, isn’t it?).
Chris has taken the Rule of Successful Sequels (Do what you did last time but do it better) and applied it so thoroughly I’m surprised he didn’t just call the book Chris F. Holm Punches All Other Noir Writers In The Nuts. Again.
Sam is such a great character, fitting the Noir genre to such a degree that I have no hesitation in saying he’s up there with classic characters like The Saint or Dick Tracy. Although to be honest, I’m a youngin’ and my frame of reference isn’t limited to the old pulp stories (and comics) but things like film and TV and videogames. The character Sam most reminds me of is Max Payne and what’s more, I think he’s every bit the standard bearer for the modern genre that Max and L.A. Noire’s Cole Phelps are.
However great a character (or an idea) might be, they’re only ever as good as the person behind the words can make them seem. And with that in mind, I genuinely think Chris is one of the best writers in the Urban Fantasy (or Fantastical Noir as he dubs his mash-up of genres) market at the moment.
Every genre has it’s clichés and conventions – fantasy has magic; spy thrillers have a global conspiracy and westerns usually involve horses and guns. This isn’t a complaint, but an observation. These are things that fans of a genre have come to expect in form of another and they’re things that we enjoy to a certain extent. What differentiates the good from the bad (and the just plain ugly) is how they’re used.
A lot of the genre staples for both Noir and Urban Fantasy are present in The Wrong Goodbye but their presence only becomes apparent after all the facts are known and the story has been told. And that’s all down to Chris’s skill as a writer.
Back in the Dead Harvest review I said that Chris was close to knocking Jim Butcher off of the top of my favourite Urban Fantasy authors list but that I was waiting for a pedigree to be established. That pedigree has now been established with The Wrong Goodbye and with only his second published novel, Chris has become one of the authors I genuinely admire.
You know what? Forget “Angry Robot (& Imprints) Reviewer”, let’s cut to the chase and change it straight to “Chris F. Holm. Fanboy”.