I’m not normally a big reader of fantasy, urban or otherwise. I don’t have anything against it, but there are already more books on this earth than I’ll be able to read in my lifetime, so I have to choose. Sometimes, though, I make exceptions. DEAD HARVEST is one, and it’s a doozy.

Because I knew author Chris Holm’s short stories, I knew already that he is a talented storyteller. If I’m honest, though, I underestimated his power to create characters and worlds that are as compelling as the one we find in DEAD HARVEST.

Sam Thornton is a new take on the grim reaper. He collects souls for a living—because he’s been damned to do so—but he’s actually quite a nice guy. Likeable, even. He’s a good guy stuck with a lousy gig for all of eternity. The thing is, the people whose souls he’s instructed to grab are no great shakes themselves, so while it’s still an unenviable task, he plods along. Until, that is, he’s instructed to collect the soul from someone who has, he thinks, been wrongly targeted.

The inhabitants of Sam’s world are fascinating, each in his or her own way. I didn’t necessarily like them all, but I was mesmerized to read what would happen to them, to learn their secrets and understand their motivations.

Kate MacNeil is either a sadistic, cold-blooded killer or a sweet, innocent young lady. We’re not sure which until well into the story. I guessed repeatedly, and in the end, I was wrong. Sam’s handler, Lilith, is either a bitch or an ally (again, I guessed wrong while reading). His colleague, Bishop, is richly drawn and creepy as all hell. Different characters and story details will stand out to each reader because DEAD HARVEST is that kind of story.

I was also impressed with the humor in DEAD HARVEST, and the cadence of the story. If you’re into audiobooks, I would suggest checking this one out; as I read the book, I thought several times what a treat it would be to have this story read to me…it’s just suited to audio.

Most importantly, perhaps, this story does not preach. It’s about forces of good and evil, yes, and human souls, but it’s not religious. It also avoids the trap into which many fantasy stories fall of being overly complicated and convoluted. It is troubling in many ways, and will stay with you long after you turn the last page, but only in good ways. Luckily, the next installment in The Collector series, THE WRONG GOODBYE, arrives on shelves on September 25.

Author’s website: www.chrisfholm.com

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