Title: Dead Harvest
Author: Chris F. Holm
Publisher: Angry Robot
Dead Harvest is the riveting debut of author Chris F. Holm. The novel first caught my interest several months back when Angry Robot made the announcement on their website that they had acquired a new author for a two book deal. I'll admit, the announcement piqued my interest, but what really got me all revved up and ready to review were the amazing hardboiled, pulp-style covers for both books. Without peeking at the first page, I knew what to expect.
With Dead Harvest, Holm introduces Samuel Thornton, an archetypal, chain-smoking, hardboiled badass. But he's not your typical badass; he's a Collector of Souls. After striking a deal with a demon to save his dying wife, he's now damned to an afterlife worse than Hell, Sam hunts the souls of those who have been marked with similar fates. When he's assigned to pluck the soul from a young woman named Kate, whom he believes to be innocent of the horrific crime of killing her family, he does something no Collector has ever done before: Sam refuses to dispatch her soul to Hell. What culminates within the pages of Dead Harvest are the repercussions of uttering such a phrase. Sam will have to do everything within his power to keep the world from ending while proving the innocence of his assignment.
With such a powerful synopsis, I found myself jonesing for more before I had even managed to crack the spine of Dead Harvest. From the cover of the book to the basic premise, I couldn't wait to dive in. When I finally did, I found myself prolonging the inevitable: finishing it.
With his debut novel, Holm's managed to do something that not many authors have been able to do in the span of an entire career, let alone with their debut novel: flawlessly mesh urban fantasy with a darker, grittier sub-genre that urban fantasy demands. Although not the first to do so, Holm has certainly managed to set himself apart from authors who preceded him. I think within the next six months to a year, a handful of authors will float to the surface to be the new torchbearer's for the noir genre, and Chris F. Holm will be leading the charge. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Angry Robot spearheads this quasi-renaissance. With such an arsenal of titles already in their quiver (and with more in the works, they'll be hard to stop.
On the run from demons, angels, forgotten gods, and a kamikaze Collector named Bishop, Thornton will do anything he can to save the life of Kate, even if that means being chased through New York City while he plans his next move (cue: Robert Johnson's "Hellhounds on My Trail"), and decides on Kate's innocence.
With succinct prose and believable characters, Holm introduces not only a hardboiled hero, but a supporting cast that carries the pace, while also building the intensity. Something I would have never expected from a first novel. Holm does a wonderful job of filling in the reader as the story unfolds, using flashbacks perfectly; right when I wanted to keep reading, he threw me into the past. There wasn't a single infodump throughout the entire novel. Instead, Holm flawlessly jumps through time and space to show the reader everything they need to know.
For those that like noir or are curious to see it blended with a more popular genre, then don't miss Dead Harvest . Memorable characters, situations and style are all the things that will keep me coming back for more of Holm's work in the future. The Wrong Goodbye, -- the sequel to Dead Harvest -- is already on my TBR pile for 2012, and will probably land at the top when an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) surfaces. Holm delivered in spades, and I loved every second of it. That's why I'm giving Dead Harvest 8.5 out of 10 TARDISes.
Yeah, it was that good.