When reading The Big Reap, I couldn’t help but think of a recent discussion I had with the author Chris F. Holm when he called into our History Of Mystery class on Lawrence Block. Chris talked in great detail about Block’s Matthew Scudder series and the craftsmanship used in conveying those ideas. This latest in Holm’s Sam Thorton series proves he has taken what he’s learned from one of the masters to heart.
For the uninitiated, Sam Thorton is a man who sold his soul to the devil. His hard boiled Hell is is to collect the souls from those who have done the same, like a supernatural loan shark. In The Big Reap, his handler, Lilith, the ultimate femme fatale, gives him a different kind of job. She asks him to take out The Brethren, a group of former collectors who have escaped the bonds of Hell. Not only have many of them influenced the legends of many classic monsters, they feed off humans. The hunt for each one takes him across the globe, feeling more and more like a pawn as fights for his life against them. It also triggers memories of his first collection and encounter with Lilith.
Holm has amazing skill when it comes to emotion and theme. The book’s meaning creeps up on the reader, without one fully grasping it until the last sentence. The emotions build as Sam’s well earned cynicism gives way to a slight sense of hope, if not trust. To Holm, even Heaven and Hell aren’t black and white.
I’d love to delve more into The Big Reap, but what is so good about it is tied to it’s impacting reveals that serve as more than just plot twists. Holm weaves the ideas he wants to explore with his story like a master craftsman. He uses the subtext of hard boiled novels, making the text through urban fantasy a starting point to venture in less charted territory. It would be no surprise if there is a class discussion about him someday.
Copies of The Big Reap are available on our shelves at BookPeople and via bookpeople.com.