Rating: 4 1/2 stars (Spotlight Review)
Sam Thornton is a soul collector. After having his own soul collected more than 60 years ago, Sam has resigned himself to his lot in life. Dispatched on another routine collection—this time for the soul of Kate, a young girl who savagely murdered her family—Sam reaches in to take her essence, and is thrown back by the force of the beauty and light within her, leaving Sam in a precarious and dangerous position: refusing to finish the job.
To take an innocent soul would be to start devastating war between Heaven and Hell.
However, finding the proof to support his claims will be nearly impossible given the existence of a reliable eye-witness account, not to mention that the powers-that-be are demanding her damnation.
With no one to trust, Sam is alone in his endeavor, save for the allegiance of Anders, a teenage boy who has been deemed unstable and medicated due to his ability to see beyond the human façade of demons. Sam puts everything on the line, for himself and the world at large, as he tries to get to the bottom of Kate’s plight.
Intertwining Sam’s current life with that of his late 1940s human past, Chris Holm beautifully contrasts Sam as the man he was and the entity he came to be, while perfectly preserving Sam’s impervious humanity—for a demon, Sam is quite conscientious and, despite his vocation, rather endearing.
I’ve always said that Staten Island is the gateway to Hell and Holm’s apparently agrees. When Sam tells Kate he has a contact in the demon world that might be able to shed light on their situation, Kate asks if the contact is in Hell, to which Sam replies, “Near enough—he’s in Staten Island”. Ah, sweet vindication!
Holm’s perfectly pitched and finely tuned prose sets the rapid pace of unceasing action. The danger continues to escalate as Sam navigates a multitude of obstacles and challenges that are flung in his path at every opportunity, each one threatening to subvert his mission at every twist and turn.
Those with a keen eye will note the subtleties that grace the pages of Holm’s ode to all that is pulp and noir from naming the protagonist Sam, to the title—a nod to Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest. Yet, you need not be a fan of gumshoe to get the most out of this read.
With a candid style that exhibits solid confidence and finesse, Chris Holm pulls the reader in and pins them to the edge of their seat with a cleverly conceived story that is flawlessly executed.
Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Angry Robot (February 28, 2012)