I’m a big fan of Christopher Moore’s books. His Fool novels hit me just right, possibly due to the subject matter of Shakespeare’s plays, and I wrote a whole recommendation for Moore’s take on the life of Jesus in the past.
His latest, Secondhand Souls, is a sequel to an earlier novel A Dirty Job. Quite frankly, I was mildly disappointed this time around. Review and SPOILERS behind the cut.
Secondhand Souls continues the story of Charlie Asher, a secondhand store owner and single father who was chosen by unknown parties to be a Death Merchant. It seems that the souls of the deceased don’t always move on, so Charlie would get a name to write down and a date of the impending death, find the person, and retrieve a personal item containing the person’s soul. He’d take it back to his shop where, eventually, he’d sell the item to some person lacking a soul that the soul would now belong to.
There was more to it than that, but the big takeaway was Charlie was killed by the Morrigan, a trio of Celtic death goddesses, who were themselves utterly destroyed by Charlie’s daughter Sophie, who may have been the new Death, and not the middleman her father was. Charlie’s soul was then put into a hodgepodge body of lunch meat and animal parts by his girlfriend Audrey, a former Buddhist nun.
This book opens with a new threat to overtake the underworld, one not totally revealed until the end of the book. Underworld gods would love to take over the whole Death thing, and Sophie, being seven, isn’t really up to the task yet.
The problem here is while Moore does assemble his usual cast of unique oddballs, including the reoccurring character of the Emperor of San Francisco and his two dogs Bummer and Lazurus, the book itself seems less focused. He doesn’t seem to have chosen a main protagonist this time, instead bouncing around to different characters at different times and places. Arguably, Moore’s main character this time around is another Death Merchant, a supporting character in the previous book, a seven-foot black man named Minty Fresh. Minty, alternately known as the Mint One, dresses in green and is generally the coolest (and tallest) man in the room at any given moment.
It also helps that the main villain this time, working with the resurrected Morrigan, is another large black man named Lemon. He dresses all in yellow. There’s more to Lemon than that, obviously, but I just thought I’d throw that out there for now.
Moore has taken to writing sequels lately, and often they aren’t as good as the originals. His Vampire Trilogy needed to be only one book, especially as the next two introduced obnoxious Goth girl Abby Normal, who actually got to narrate large chunks of the latter two books. Abby may appear in Secondhand Souls as a “failed Goth,” but the wasn’t exactly confirmed.
I didn’t outright hate the book. In fact, it did get better as it went along. But aside from the aforementioned Shakespearean books, I much prefer Moore not write more sequels. I tore through Serpent of Venice. Secondhand Souls took a little effort.
I’m giving this one six and a half hellhounds out of ten. I wouldn’t start reading Christopher Moore’s work with this one, but for fans, it’ll probably be a decent read.