Audiobook Review: The Wrong Goodbye by Chris F. Holm

12 11 2012

The Wrong Goodbye by Chris F. Holm (The Collector, Bk. 2)

Read by Brian Vander Ark

Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio

Length: 9 Hrs 54 Min

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: The Wrong Goodbye comes at you like a slow boil, building in tension as the pieces fall into place, resulting in a well executed mad rush of a "should have seen it coming" ending. This series is breathing fresh new life into an Urban Fantasy Trope that I never even realized it desperately needed. If you were a fan of the wild, action filled Dead Harvest, then you will delight in the next steps the story takes in The Wrong Goodbye.

Grade: A-

Sam Thornton, the protagonist of Chris F. Holm’s Urban Fantasy series, is a Collector. It’s quite easy to mistake him for a Grim Reaper, but his job is much different. Within the mythos of The Collector series, a Collector gathers two very specific types of souls. One type is those whose actions are so heinous, so evil that Hell claims their soul right away. The others is the souls of those who struck a deal with some demonic force, selling their soul for some temporary earth bound advantage. Now, I know what you are thinking, what sort of idiot would risk eternal damnation for some temporal reward. What gift would be worth having now that would make up for years of torment at the hands of the denizens of hell? For those of you who are thinking, nothing…. nothing is worth giving up my soul, well, I’m with you. Except, that I know myself too well. Intellectually, I know that 10, or 20 or 100 years of health, wealth and happiness would not make up for an eternity of suffering. Of course, intellectually, I also know that blowing $50 at the bookstore when I have rent, and a crap load of bills coming in doesn’t make sense. Yet, for some reason, my bookcases keep getting fuller. I’ve never been great at delayed gratification.  Growing up poor, portly and pretty much unlucky with the ladies makes me tend to grab on to whatever luxuries I can manage, often times knowing it will come with a price in the future. As I have grown, I have learned more discipline, but it’s been an uphill battle. I am lucky that the younger me never came across that strange man in the crossroads offering me a taste of the good life for the mere pittance of my soul. I’d like to think I would have turned down that deal just as I’d like to thigh my frugality and good decisions have created a comfortable little nest egg. Unfortunately, I probably blew all that for some nice pretties for my nest, and plenty of eggs.

While tracking a particularly evil drug dealer through the South American jungle, Collector Sam Thornton comes upon a grisly scene. His quarry is found ripped apart, soul missing, with a message for Sam carved into his body.  There is only one being who could pull this off, another Collector, and one that Sam shares a complex history with. In The Wrong Goodbye, Chris F Holm again offers a look into the otherworldly domain of the collectors. While there are many urban fantasies out their today dealing with angels and demons, very few are as unique and fascinating as the world Holm has created. Holm shrugs off everything you think you know about the afterlife, stripping away the Sunday School mythology and offering you a well conceived world that makes its own rules. In The Wrong Goodbye, Holm gives you a slower more complicated plot than in Dead Harvest. While the action is there, it does not come at quite the breakneck speed as the first novel of the series. Instead Holm concentrates on creating a clever plot, expanding his mythology in creative new directions and presenting us with some of the best characters that I have met in an urban fantasy. What I really liked about The Goodbye was how Holm flips the traditional hero roles. None of his characters are what you would consider good guys. They are drawn from the dregs of society, mafia goombahs, con men and the like, yet they have more heart, and more potential for heroism than the nearest Boy Scout. Many of these characters know they are destined for an eternity of torment, but they step up and surprise you. The Wrong Goodbye comes at you like a slow boil, building in tension as the pieces fall into place, resulting in a well executed mad rush of a "should have seen it coming" ending. This series is breathing fresh new life into an Urban Fantasy Trope that I never even realized it desperately needed. If you were a fan of the wild, action filled Dead Harvest, then you will delight in the next steps the story takes in The Wrong Goodbye.

Now, to be perfectly honest, I’m not yet sure I’m 100% sold on Brian Vander Ark as a narrator. Now, I think he does a great job here in The Wrong Goodbye. As a first person narrative, Vander Ark really captures the essence of Sam Thornton. There is a certain hesitant gruffness in his reading that really enhances Sam Thornton as a character, capturing the often "deer in the headlights" noir feel that the narrative creates for Sam. The rawness gives the reading authenticity, but it also offers some negatives. Vander Arks pacing is uneven at times. As the action speeds up, Vander Ark does a good job conveying the urgency of each scene, but there is often an awkward feel to the slower, more contemplative scenes. There are also some distracting noises throughout the reading. I’m not sure if they were lip smacking or other mouth sounds, but there were noticeable at times throughout the production. Yet, I think that in a way, the rawness and awkward pacing sort of worked for this novel, but I’m not quite sure it would work in something else. I would be quite interested to hear Vander Ark taking on a third person POV or multi POV story to see if some of the flaws that worked here where a conscious choice or just the limits of his skill. No matter my complaints, I really enjoyed the audiobook production and encourage people to give it a listen.

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