Secondhand Souls: A Novel
Christopher Moore (Twitter) (Facebook)
Audiobook read by Fisher Stevens
William Morrow Books (August 2015), hardcover (ISBN 0061779784 / 9780061779787)
Fiction, 352 pages
Source: Audiobook borrowed from Los Angeles Public Library via Overdrive (Harper Audio, August 2015; ISBN 9780062374103)
There’s a colony of ghosts inhabiting the Golden Gate Bridge, and they’ve started talking to Mike Sullivan, the bridge painter. A banshee—harbinger of death—has been visiting retired police officer/reluctant soul-recoverer/bookselling Death Merchant Alphonse Rivera. And the giant hellhounds that guard seven-year-old Sophie Asher have run off after an antique Buick Roadmaster driven by a black man dressed all in yellow. If this doesn’t sound like complete gibberish to you, either you have a gift for accepting the bizarre or you’re already acquainted with Christopher Moore’s San Francisco, gateway to the underworld.
Moore has dabbled in demons, vampires, zombies, and an oddball sort of supernatural theology that connects them all for nearly two decades. In Secondhand Souls, he picks up the story of the Death Merchants he introduced in A Dirty Job, one year after the ancient demigoddesses of death the Morrigan killed Charlie Asher, Sophie’s father, and his Buddhist-nun girlfriend Audrey transferred his soul into a small crocodilian creature until they could find him a new human body. Now that the banshee keeps giving Rivera warnings, he and fellow Death Merchant Minty Fresh are getting the feeling that Charlie’s going to need that body very, very soon…not to mention that Sophie’s “goggies” are gone and she really needs her dad back.
I read A Dirty Job back in the pre-blog days, and although Secondhand Souls does a fair amount of recapping, I’m not sure it can be fully appreciated without some familiarity with the earlier novel…and I rarely say this, but if you haven’t read that one yet, I’m going to recommend you do that before picking up this one. (I actually want to re-read it now, as it’s one of my very favorites from Moore in his horror/humor mode.) If you have read A Dirty Job, chances are you’re going to read this too, so I won’t risk spoilers…and that means I can’t say too much more about Secondhand Souls, because like most of Moore’s horror/humor fiction, it’s more plot- than character- or theme-based. I will say my last experience with Christopher Moore was a bit disappointing, and that made me a little apprehensive about this one, but Secondhand Souls has him back in fine form and in my good graces. I gobbled up this audiobook, and was appropriately frightened and amused throughout.
In San Francisco, the souls of the dead are mysteriously disappearing—and you know that can’t be good—in New York Times bestselling author Christopher Moore’s delightfully funny sequel to A Dirty Job.
Something really strange is happening in the City by the Bay. People are dying, but their souls are not being collected. Someone—or something—is stealing them and no one knows where they are going, or why, but it has something to do with that big orange bridge. Death Merchant Charlie Asher is just as flummoxed as everyone else. He’s trapped in the body of a fourteen-inch-tall “meat puppet” waiting for his Buddhist nun girlfriend, Audrey, to find him a suitable new body to play host.
To get to the bottom of this abomination, a motley crew of heroes will band together: the seven-foot-tall death merchant Minty Fresh; retired policeman turned bookseller Alphonse Rivera; the Emperor of San Francisco and his dogs, Bummer and Lazarus; and Lily, the former Goth girl. Now if only they can get little Sophie to stop babbling about the coming battle for the very soul of humankind …
“It was a cool, quiet November day in San Francisco and Alphonse Rivera, a lean, dark man of fifty, sat behind the counter of his bookstore flipping through the Great Big Book of Death, The old-fashioned bell over the door rang and Rivera looked up as the Emperor of San Francisco, a great woolly storm cloud of a fellow, tumbled into the store followed by his faithful dogs. Bummer and Lazarus, who ruffed and frisked with urgent intensity, then darted around the store like canine Secret Service agents, clearing the site in case a sly assassin or meaty pizza lurked among the stacks.
“‘The names must be recorded, Inspector,’ proclaimed the Emperor, ‘lest they be forgotten!’
“Rivera was not alarmed, but by habit his hand fell to his hip, where his gun used to ride. Twenty-five years a cop, the habit was part of him, but now the gun was locked in a safe in the back room. He kept an electric stun gun under the counter that in the year since he’d opened the store had been moved only for dusting.
“‘Why, the names of the dead, of course,’ said the Emperor. ‘I need a ledger.’”