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Secondhand Souls


Secondhand Souls

What is so funny about death? Quite a lot of things, actually, when death is one of the stars in a Christopher Moore novel. Moore first introduced readers to his version of death in A DIRTY JOB wherein “beta male” Charlie Asher's wife, Rachel, dies giving birth to their daughter, Sophie. Charlie sees, when Rachel is dying, a man in a mint-green suit and thus begins his association with the figures who collect the souls of the dead. Death, we learn, is not only a dirty job but also a strange, messy and even hilarious one.

SECONDHAND SOULS picks up a year after the action of A DIRTY JOB ends. Charlie, Sophie, and their cohort of cops, bums, friends and Death Merchants are still in San Francisco emotionally and physically recovering from the violence and harrowing trauma they recently survived. Meanwhile, it turns out that many of the Death Merchants have not been doing their job of collecting souls into vessels, and so the souls are hanging out in the miasma of the city's fog, and the forces of evil are growing strong once again. A bridge painter, a good but lonely guy named Mike, comes into contact with the Golden Gate Bridge ghosts and sets in motion a plan that aligns with Charlie's to put things right.

"SECONDHAND SOULS is a romping tale and a bit untidy.... For all the weirdness in these pages, there are some really thoughtful and interesting ideas as well."

While Mike is a new character, most of the people here appeared in A DIRTY JOB. Minty Fresh is still a cool (if gleefully stereotypical) character, and his girlfriend, Lily, is still dark and cynical. Rivera is still good under pressure, and Audrey is still a calm, new-agey presence. Charlie is still a beta male, though now his soul is trapped in the body of a 14-inch squirrel, and he cannot let Sophie see him. Charlie's squirrel body is the creation of Audrey, his Buddhist nun girlfriend, who has the power to reconstruct and re-animate dead animals, though, unlike Charlie, most cannot speak. The squirrel people are in fact soul vessels, and they are growing restless and frustrated. As Charlie and the others begin to understand the ramifications of the vessel-less souls, as Mike communes with his ghost-girlfriend Concepcion, and as the squirrel people advocate for rights, a screaming banshee arrives to warn them all that the Morrigan, that triple female death goddess, has returned and is bent on destruction.

If all of this sounds muddled, it is. SECONDHAND SOULS is a romping tale and a bit untidy. Readers should be forewarned that, without having read A DIRTY JOB, the world Moore is depicting will make little sense. But those ready to follow up on the figures from that first book (and meet a couple of new ones like Minty's cousin, Lemon) and catch up on the eternal struggles between good and evil, and life and death, will be entertained by Moore's second “Grim Reaper” book.

For all the weirdness in these pages, there are some really thoughtful and interesting ideas as well. Moore plays around with world mythology, especially Celtic, Egyptian and Buddhist tales, and successfully merges them into one narrative. Religion in general is examined in a critical but kind manner as Moore's characters make connections between body and soul. Love is, perhaps, the most important theme here, and its ability to transcend physicality and even death is a sweet idea in a book full of hell-hounds, ancient death goddesses, pain and loss. There are some great pairings of characters here, and their relationships hold the whole nutty sequel together.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on August 28, 2015

Secondhand Souls
by Christopher Moore

  • Publication Date: May 10, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction, Humor, Mystery
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0061779792
  • ISBN-13: 9780061779794