Reviewed by Shona Kinsella
The blurb for this book had me interested straight away. I mean, who wouldn’t be intrigued by this: “Michael Holland is a grim reaper working the worst beat in the worst town. Michael’s best friend is a pot-smoking tooth fairy, his boss is the angel of death, his psychiatrist can read his mind, and he counts bogeymen, demons, and clones as his acquaintances.”
The book follows reluctant grim reaper, Michael Holland through the afterlife, a place filled with bureaucracy, poor hygiene and mysterious rules. Michael is not a particularly likeable character though he is engaging enough to follow through the book. He’s intelligent but selfish and full of self-pity, with a history of making bad decisions.
The world building is strong, with great sensory details added. There are points where you can almost smell the filthy alleyways and Michael’s tooth fairy flat-mate, Chip. The scenarios that Michael finds himself in are intriguing and imaginative. The scenes with Michael’s psychiatrist were very funny, not least because she is a vampire.
The main problem I had with this book was the narrative structure. It’s basically a collection of short stories or novelettes about Michael rather than one coherent narrative, as presented. There’s no sense of resolution or narrative arc, so the story jumps about and leaves the reader wanting. The first part of the book deals with a mysterious agency who are stealing the souls of werewolves before Michael can collect them, but this storyline ends on a cliffhanger with the book continuing onto another plot. If the book had been presented as a collection of short stories featuring the same character this might have worked, but, as it was, this was a major flaw for me.
Each of the separate storylines works quite well. In addition to the one mentioned above, Michael and his friends have to locate and detain a demon who thinks he’s Santa Claus, track down a confused succubus and stop a serial killer. Each of these plots is clever, engaging and well put together but they don’t make a novel.
The characters use strong language throughout which suited the context but will not be to everyone’s taste. There are also several sexually crass conversations which, for me, didn’t add anything to the book and could have been cut with no great loss.
This book has a lot going for it but feels like it hasn’t achieved its full potential.