“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.
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” 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…
Here’s a slightly edited version of what I wrote on Goodreads:
| I’ll just say it: Christopher Moore can pretty much do no wrong. Take his earlier books: Enormous lizards? Artificial whales? Stupid angels and Jesus? Shakespeare, Impressionist painters… you get the drift. For ultra-weird but extremely funny (and even touching) stories, you really can’t beat the Author Guy’s books.
Secondhand Souls is a sequel to A Dirty Job, which is an awesomely hilarious, entertaining, occasionally crude, always crazy tale — and Secondhand Souls lives up to it, not quite perfectly, but awfully darn close. The characters we love are back, in different places in their lives (and even in different bodies), but still themselves. Plus, there are some memorable new characters, including a Golden Gate Bridge painter named Mike, a mysterious man dressed all in yellow, a lovesick ghost, and a banshee with a fondness for tasers, among others.
San Francisco itself is a star, and seeing such a crazy adventure unfold in our beloved city is at least half the fun.
Who am I kidding? It’s all fun. The logic of the story gets a little thin at times, and forget about character development: We’re plopped down into the lives of the characters from A Dirty Job, and either you remember them or you don’t. But, it doesn’t really matter. If you’re a Christopher Moore fan, you need to read this. And if you’ve never had the pleasure, I’d say put this one on hold and read (at least) A Dirty Job — and possibly a few others — before picking up Secondhand Souls.
And for a more articulate review, here’s what my friend Heidi had to say about it:
| Of all Christopher Moore’s novels, which range from the adolescent and ridiculous (Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings) to the pretty much perfect (Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal), the ones that Charlie Asher lives in are my favorites. Secondhand Souls is of course the sequel to A Dirty Job, which introduced us to Charlie, beta male junk shop owner, and the hidden world of the Death Merchants. (Also: a devastatingly cool record-shop owner called Minty Fresh, a toddler who may-or-may-not be Death and her pet Hellhounds, Lily the PerkyGoth, Audrey the Buddhist nun, The Emperor of San Francisco, The Morrigan and The Squirrel People, among others.) Read that before you read this, or you’ll be really lost. In fact, you probably are already.
With the whole bizarre gang back in play — plus some new additions — Secondhand Souls is not a mere cheesey sequel (though cheez plays a critical role); it’s more like visiting with batshit crazy old friends. Unfortunately for them it turns out, due in large part to the events in A Dirty Job, there’s a dangerous backlog of uncollected souls lurking around San Francisco, and Charlie and friends are once again embroiled in the danger and magical maneuvering that is dealing with the powers of darkness rising. Fortunately, they are more than weird enough to handle the crisis. I don’t want to spoil the plot, so I’ll just say it’s hilarious.
Maybe I love these books because they capture San Francisco’s magic in ways that ring true in my heart. It’s like an idealized version of my hometown — in the topography of Moore’s books I basically live across the street from Minty’s shop, and nobody ever has to step over homeless people sleeping in the vestibule. Crazy people are really helpful geniuses, and even normal folks can afford the rents. (I find all this somehow reassuring, as magic is in short supply around here these days.) Also, the characters have more fun talking to each other than anybody ever has had in the history of ever. (Except maybe “The Gilmore Girls.”) For nutty-but-somehow-deep dialogue, you really can’t beat Christopher Moore. 5 whole-hearted, sunny-yet-deeply-morbid stars.
(With thanks to Heidi, for letting me borrow her review! For more awesome Heidi reviews, you can find her here on Goodreads.)
So hey – if you’re new to Christopher Moore, this is not the place to start! Maybe spend some time with Practical Demonkeeping or The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, or even his first novel set in San Francisco, Bloodsucking Fiends. Bask in the absurd and wacky, soak up his crazy but somehow perfect tricks of language, and just enjoy the WTFness of it all. When you’re ready for true brilliance and lots of heart, read Lamb. Or harken back to Shakespeare as you never knew it with Fool and The Serpent of Venice. Uh oh, I feel a Christopher Moore retrospective post coming on! Stay tuned… and meanwhile, get thee to a copy of A Dirty Job as soon as possible.
Need a cheez. (Read Secondhand Souls and this will make sense.)
Title: Secondhand Souls
Author: Christopher Moore
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication date: August 25, 2015
Length: 352 pages