Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore

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Secondhand Souls (Grim Reaper, #2) by Christopher Moore is the sequel to the fan favorite, A Dirty Job. The offbeat and quirky cast of characters are back for a second helping of death and damnation of apocalyptic proportions. In the first book, Charlie Asher, one of the chosen to receive the Big Book of the Dead and act as a Death Merchant, ferrying the souls of the newly dead to their new bodies, waged a great battle against an evil trinity of Celtic Goddesses, a crazed Banshee and one really bad guy to save the world or at the very least the city of San Francisco. He was able to do so but died in the battle. Only he didn’t, not while his Buddhist nun lover Audrey was able to save him; by having his soul transplanted inside a fourteen inch high body of lunch meat and spare animal parts and given life. But as far as everyone else was concerned, Charlie was gone. Even to his seven year old daughter Sophie who loved being a princess and was also by the way, the Luminatus, supreme rule of the Underworld and all Death. Which is how it seemed things would remain, but then it got weird…

People are dying in San Francisco, but their souls are not being collected. In fact someone or something is stealing them and no one knows where they are going. Except it may have something to do with that giant orange bridge across the Bay. Charlie and his nun girlfriend know that they have to do something but exactly what can they do….

“….in the Mission District of San Francisco, a Buddhist nun and little crocodile-wizard guy were working out the finer points of murder.
‘Is it really murder,’ said Audrey. ‘if he is going to jump anyway?’
‘I’m pretty sure it is,’ said Charlie. ‘I think the Buddha said that one should never injure a human or, through inaction, allow a human to come to harm. If we know he is going to jump and we don’t stop him, I think we are going against whatever sutra that is.’
‘First, that is not a sutra, that’s Asimov’s First Law of Robotics, from I, Robot, and second, we’re not just allowing him to harm himself, we’re trying to get him to do it on a schedule…”

To solve this mystery, Charlie must gather up his old crew and a few new recruits. The seven foot tall Death Merchant Minty Fresh, retired policeman Alphonse Rivera, the Emperor of San Francisco and his dogs, Bummer and Lazarus and Lily the former Goth girl turned suicide helpline counselor. But first, they have to get Charlie back into a regular body and then somehow convince seven year old Sophie, the ruler of all Death, that her Daddy is back.

“…Are you a nun?’ Sophie asked.
‘Why yes, darling, we all are.’ said the sister.
‘The nuns at my school are mean.’
‘I’m a different kind of nun.’
‘Flying?’
‘No, but thanks for asking.’ The sister primped his wings.
‘A booty nun?’
‘I don’t know what that is, honey, but I like where you’re going with it. No, we’re more like–like fairies.’
‘Fairies?’ She grinned in a kid-rictus and pointed to a vacant spot in her lower gum. ‘You bitches still owe me some money for this…”

Secondhand Souls is irreverent and funny and in some parts, almost insightful. It is vintage Christopher Moore and for fans of the first book they will find Secondhand Souls to be another fun ride in the carnival that is what so few books in this genre are capable of being. Just damn funny.

If I have one gripe about this book is that it is in far too many ways, a repeat of the first. Evil spirit, deity comes to San Francisco and begins to gather his power to take over the world. He enlists the three crazy Celtic Goddesses to help him out and is met and beaten by Charlie Asher and his oddball Scooby Doo gang. But there is enough new additions to the tale and with Moore’s deft hand at storytelling and humor it is still a fun read.

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