Fresh Meat: The Big Reap by Chris F. Holm

The Big Reap by Chris F. Holm is the 3rd in the series about Collector of souls Sam Thornton, who will be sent after a group of former Collectors who've cast off their ties to hell (available July 30, 2013).

If Chris F. Holm ever disappears, it’s because of his search history, and if you’ve been following him on Twitter lately, you know he spends entirely too much time in Guam.

In other words, the third book in the Collector series is arriving, so you can spend the end of your summer with soul grabber Sam Thornton, his handler, Lilith, and a bunch of other interesting…creatures.

While you could well read this without having picked up the other two book and most of it will still make perfect sense — there’s plenty of backstory even fans of the series haven’t seen before to guide you — at some point you meet a group of characters that (while well explained) are just more fun if you recognize them like old friends.

For the uninitiated, Sam is a soul collector. His job is to, well, collect souls for hell. Souls that have been bargained away in exchange for fame or fortune or the health of a loved one or, you know, the things you bargain with the devil for. At any rate, Sam’s grown a little jaded through the years. Also, better adept at dealing with the things life—er, death—throws at him.

So I showed the guy my palms, and sent out my best we’re-all-friends-here vibes. Of course, I spend my days killing people at hell’s behest, so I confess, the happiest vibes I’ve got at my disposal are pretty fucking far from cheery. But if that means not getting my ass shot, I’m willing to, you know, fake it.

This time around, Sam inadvertently kills someone, something, no one thought could be killed, leading him on a whirlwind, globe-trotting assignment to eliminate the others.

“You’ve accomplished what few can. What even fewer still would dare, particularly now.”

“What do you mean?”

“The Great Truce may have rendered the Brethren off-limits, but that doesn’t mean we’ve been ignoring them entirely. We’ve kept tabs on them throughout history, to ensure they do not exert undue influence on the course of human events, or through their actions pose a material threat to hell’s dominion…”

My stomach dropped. I was beginning to see where this was going. “Yet?”

“Last night,” she said, “once word of your little adventure in London Town spread throughout the Depths, the powers decided — after no small amount of debating, I’m assured — that Magnusson’s move against you constituted a significant enough breach of the terms of the Truce, and his death a significant enough demonstration of vulnerability, that the remainder of the Brethren were to be eliminated.”

The Brethren themselves are terrifying for Sam, but fun for the reader — you know, if terrifying-monster-chasing is your idea of fun. And oh what monsters they are! To go into much more detail would spoil the giddiness of discovering favorite movie and book monsters along the way, but do keep an eye out for homages to all sorts of myths and legends.

Speaking of monsters, Sam’s always been keenly aware of the differences between his Collector self and his formerly-human self, trying to hang onto as much of his humanity as possible, even in the face of overwhelming odds. For instance, he’s developed a preference for body-snatching the recently deceased in the past two books so as not to disturb or possibly maim the living. Lately, though…

See, the dead — even the newly dead, so fresh and unspoiled by autolysis and/or putrefaction you’d have to check their pulse to tell — drive like that car you had in high school with a busted muffler and no third gear. They’re all tricky. Goofy. Hard to get the hang of.

But the living — they’re Ferraris, built for speed, for handling. They ride like a dream. Only catch is, you’ve got to subjugate their owner’s will before they’ll relent to your commands. Used to be, I didn’t like that much.

These past few days, though, I’ve begun to develop a taste for it. Found I kinda sorta enjoy it, like playing a game of psychological Whac-a-Mole. Only the mole I’m whacking is the thinking, feeling, human owner of the body I’ve gone and hijacked.

At least he’s still avoiding smoking in meatsuits that don’t already have an urge to light up. Still, while he’s busy turning Brethren souls into dust, he should probably stop and do a little metaphorical soul searching of his own. When he does, its rather a doozy and leads him to an assignment — and a decision — he never saw coming.

Like the first two books, you can read them to gain a better understanding of what it means to be human and moral, to discover one man’s path to find his place in the universe even after his death. Or, you can read it for the scaly, furry, freaky things that will chase you right into your nightmares.


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Neliza Drew is a tofu-eating teacher and erratic reader with a soft spot for crime fiction. She lives in the heat and humidity of southern Florida with three cats and her adorable hubby. She listens to way too much music, writes often, and spends too much time on Twitter (@nelizadrew).

Read all posts by Neliza Drew on Criminal Element.

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