Meet Sam Thornton. He collects souls. The souls of the damned, to be precise. Condemned to an eternity of servitude to hell thanks to a devil's bargain he made to save his dying wife, this gig of his is part penance, part punishment, and all suck. But just because he's a capital-letters Bad Guy doesn't mean he's a bad guy...
Sam Thornton is a classic noir character -- just a guy who made a bad decision. That decision, in DEAD HARVEST, leads him into the grim supernatural world of the Collector, those who collect the souls of the damned. However, Sam will learn in THE WRONG GOODBYE and THE BIG REAP that the world of The Collector has its own rules and, in the tradition of characters like Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade, Sam Thornton has his own ideas about right and wrong no matter what the celestial big-wigs have to say about it. By the end, Sam will have to ask himself just which side he is on.
As you can see, one might say that the name of the game is urban fantasy. However, one of the things that sets these novels apart from most of the rest of the urban fantasy crowd is Holm's prose. He is clearly inspired by hardboiled and pulp fiction. His prose is tight and fast. Once the action is set in motion it doesn't stop until the end.
Second, Sam Thornton himself. Holm has constructed a memorable, funny, interesting, sad, thought-provoking character in Thornton and the reader will think of him long after the books finish. Readers would do good to have the second and third volumes waiting on the shelf because Sam Thornton and the world he inhabits demands to be returned to immediately.
Third, worldbuilding. This is not epic fantasy like Rothfuss or Tolkien but Holm's love of the fantastic is obvious. There are no info dumps, no pages of pure worldbuilding, but Holm has created a complex, fascinating world for Thornton to inhabit and it is revealed slowly, bit by bit, satisfying while always leaving you wanting a little more.
Each volume gets a little better than the last, the stakes get a little higher each time for Thornton, and a new piece of the puzzle is unveiled each time. Like any great book, these can be enjoyed on the surface for all the thrills and chills that they offer. Also like any great book, there is more on offer if you peel back the surface a little. It'll make you ponder a little something about humanity, morality, the nature of good and evil, only the most fundamental human questions.
There is no limit to the amount of praise that I could bestow on these novels. They are among my very favorites. I talk to everyone I think will listen about them. I re-read them -- sometimes in whole, sometimes only sections I'm particularly fond of. If you're a fan of hardboiled crime fiction or fantasy and the intersection of those sounds like your cup of joe, I strongly implore you to go to your bookseller of choice and grab all three of the books in Chris F. Holm's THE COLLECTOR.