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Secondhand Souls: A Novel

Secondhand Souls: A Novel

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Secondhand Souls: A Novel

évaluations:
4/5 (54 évaluations)
Longueur:
430 pages
6 heures
Éditeur:
Sortie:
Aug 25, 2015
ISBN:
9780062355348
Format:
Livre

Description

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 puppet” 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 . . .

Éditeur:
Sortie:
Aug 25, 2015
ISBN:
9780062355348
Format:
Livre

À propos de l'auteur

Christopher Moore is the author of the novels Secondhand Souls, Sacré Bleu, A Dirty Job, and Lamb. He lives in San Francisco, California.

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Secondhand Souls - Christopher Moore

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PROLOGUE

(Selected from the Great Big Book of Death: First Edition)

1. Congratulations, you have been chosen to act as Death, it’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it. It is your duty to retrieve soul vessels from the dead and dying and see them on to their next body. If you fail, Darkness will cover the world and Chaos will reign.

2. Some time ago, the Luminatus, or the Great Death, who kept balance between light and darkness, ceased to be. Since then, Forces of Darkness have been trying to rise from below. You are all that stands between them and destruction of the collective soul of humanity. Try not to screw up.

3. In order to hold off the Forces of Darkness, you will need a number two pencil and a calendar, preferably one without pictures of kitties on it. Keep it near you when you sleep.

4. Names and numbers will come to you. The number is how many days you have to retrieve the soul vessel. Do not be late. You will know the vessels by their crimson glow.

5. Don’t tell anyone what you do, or the Forces of Darkness etc. etc. etc.

6. People may not see you when you are performing your Death duties, so be careful crossing the street. You are not immortal.

7. Do not seek others of your kind. Do not waver in your duties or the Forces of Darkness will destroy you and all that you care about.

8. You do not cause death, you do not prevent death, you are a servant of Destiny, not its agent. Get over yourself.

9. Do not, under any circumstances, let a soul vessel fall into the hands of those from below—because that would be bad.

PART ONE

Do not be afraid

Everyone before you has died

You cannot stay

Any more than a baby can stay forever in the womb

Leave behind all you know

All you love

Leave behind pain and suffering

This is what Death is.

—The Book of Living and Dying

(The Tibetan Book of the Dead)

1

DAY OF THE DEAD

It was a cool, quiet November day in San Francisco and Alphonse Rivera, a lean, dark man of fifty, sat behind the counter of his bookstore flipping through the Great Big Book of Death. The old-fashioned bell over the door rang and Rivera looked up as the Emperor of San Francisco, a great woolly storm cloud of a fellow, tumbled into the store followed by his faithful dogs, Bummer and Lazarus, who ruffed and frisked with urgent intensity, then darted around the store like canine Secret Service agents, clearing the site in case a sly assassin or meaty pizza lurked among the stacks.

The names must be recorded, Inspector, the Emperor proclaimed, lest they be forgotten!

Rivera was not alarmed, but by habit his hand fell to his hip, where his gun used to ride. Twenty-five years a cop, the habit was part of him, but now the gun was locked in a safe in the back room. He kept an electric stun gun under the counter that in the year since he opened the store had been moved only for dusting.

Whose names?

Why the names of the dead, of course, said the Emperor. I need a ledger.

Rivera stood up from his stool and set his reading glasses on the counter by his book. In an instant, Bummer, the Boston terrier, and Lazarus, the golden retriever, were behind the counter with him, the former standing up on his hind legs, hopeful bug eyes raised in tribute to the treat gods, a pantheon to which he was willing to promote Rivera, for a price.

I don’t have anything for you, said Rivera, feeling as if he should have somehow known to have treats handy. You guys aren’t even supposed to be in here. No dogs allowed. He pointed to the sign on the door, which not only was facing the street, but was in a language Bummer did not read, which was all of them.

Lazarus, who was seated behind his companion, panting peacefully, looked away so as not to compound Rivera’s embarrassment.

Shut up, Rivera said to the retriever. I know he can’t read. He can take my word for it that’s what the sign says.

Inspector? The Emperor smoothed his beard and shot the lapels of his dingy tweed overcoat, composing himself to offer assistance to a citizen in need. You know, also, that Lazarus can’t talk.

So far, said Rivera. But he looks like he has something to say. The ex-cop sighed, reached down, and scratched Bummer between the ears.

Bummer allowed it, dropped to all fours, and chuffed. You could have been great, he thought, a hero, but now I will have to sniff a mile of heady poo to wash the scent of your failure out of my nose—oh, that feels nice. Oh, very nice. You are my new best friend.

"Inspector?"

I’m not an inspector anymore, Your Grace.

Yet ‘inspector’ is a title you’ve earned by good service, and it is yours forevermore.

Forevermore, Rivera repeated with a smile. The Emperor’s grandiose manner of speaking had always amused him, reminded him of some more noble, genteel time which he’d never really experienced. I don’t mind the title following me, so much, but I had hoped I’d be able to leave all the strange happenings behind with the job.

Strange happenings?

You know. You were there. The creatures under the streets, the Death Merchants, the hellhounds, Charlie Asher—you don’t even know what day it is and you know—

It’s Tuesday, said the Emperor. A good man, Charlie Asher—a brave man. Gave his life for the people of our city. He will long be missed. But I am afraid the strange happenings continue.

No, they don’t, said Rivera, with more authority than he felt. Move along. Moving along. That it was Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, had put him on edge already, sent him to the drawer to retrieve the Great Big Book of Death, but he would not give weight to more reminders. Acknowledge a nightmare and you give it power, someone had told him. Maybe the spooky Goth girl who used to work for Charlie Asher. You said you needed a ledger?

To record the names of the dead. They came to me last night, hundreds of them, telling me to write down their names so they are not forgotten.

In a dream? Rivera did not want to hear this. Not at all. It had been a year since all that had happened, since the Big Book had arrived, calling him to action, and he’d walked away. So far, so good.

We slumbered by the restrooms at the St. Francis Yacht Club last night, said the Emperor. The dead came across the water, floating, like the fog. They were quite insistent.

They can be that way, can’t they? said Rivera. The Emperor was a crazy old man, a sweet, generous, and sincere lunatic. Unfortunately, in the past, many of his insane ravings had turned out to be true, and therein lay the dread that Rivera felt rising in his chest.

The dead speak to you as well, then, Inspector?

I worked homicide for fifteen years, you learn to listen.

The Emperor nodded and gave Rivera’s shoulder a fatherly squeeze. "We protect the living, but evidently we are also called to serve the dead."

I don’t have any ledgers, but I carry some nice blank books.

Rivera led the Emperor to a shelf where he stocked cloth and leather-bound journals of various sizes. How many of the dead will we be recording? Something about dealing with the Emperor put you in a position of saying things that sounded less than sane.

All of them, said the Emperor.

Of course, then you’ll need a substantial volume. Rivera handed him a sturdy leather journal with letter-sized pages.

The Emperor took the book, flipped through it, ran his hand over the cover. He looked from the book to Rivera and tears welled in his eyes. This will be perfect.

You’ll need a pen, said Rivera.

Pencil, said the Emperor. A number two pencil. They were quite specific.

The dead? said Rivera.

Bummer ruffed, the subtext of which was: "Of course, the dead, you tree-bound squirrel. Haven’t you been paying attention?" Rivera had still failed to produce any treats and had ceased scratching Bummer behind the ears, so fuck him.

Lazarus whined apologetically, the subtext of which was: Sorry, he’s been an insufferable dickweed since he was given the powers of a hellhound, but the old man likes him, so what are you going to do? Still, it wouldn’t kill you to keep some treats behind the counter for your friends.

Yes, the dead, said the Emperor.

Rivera nodded. I don’t stock pencils in the store, but I think I can help you out. He moved back behind the counter and opened a drawer. When the Great Big Book of Death had shown up in his mailbox, he’d bought the calendar and the pencils as it had instructed. He still had five of the pencils he’d purchased. He handed one to the Emperor, who took it, inspected the point, then dropped it into the inside pocket of his enormous overcoat, where Rivera was fairly sure he would never find it again.

What do I owe you for the book? asked the Emperor. He dug several crumpled bills from his coat pocket, but Rivera waved them off.

It’s on me. In service of the city.

In service of the city, repeated the Emperor, then to the troops, Gentlemen, we are off to the library to begin our list.

How will you get the names? asked Rivera.

Well, obituaries, of course. And then perhaps a stop at the police station for a look at the missing persons reports. Someone there will help me, won’t they?

"I’m sure they will. I’ll call ahead to the Central Station on Vallejo. But I can’t help but think you’ve got a big task ahead of you. You said you need to record all of the dead. The city has been here, what, a hundred and sixty years? That’s a lot of dead people."

I misspoke, Inspector. All of the dead, but with some urgency about those who passed in the last year.

The last year? Why?

The Emperor shrugged. Because they asked me to.

I mean why the emphasis on the last year?

So they won’t be forgotten. The Emperor scratched his great, grizzly beard as he tried to remember. "Although they said lost, not forgotten. So they won’t be lost to the darkness."

Rivera felt his mouth go dry and his face drain of blood. He opened the door for the Emperor, and the ringing bell jostled his power of speech. Good luck, then, Your Majesty. I’ll call the desk at Central Station. They’ll expect you.

Many thanks. The Emperor tucked the leather book under his arm and saluted. Onward, men! He led the dogs out of the shop, Bummer kicking up his back feet against the carpet as if to shed himself of the dirty business that was Alphonse Rivera.

Rivera returned to his spot behind the counter and stared at the cover of the Great Big Book of Death. A stylized skeleton grinned gleefully back at him, the bodies of five people impaled on his bony fingers and rendered in cheerful Day of the Dead colors.

Lost to the darkness? Only the last year?

Rivera had bought the pencils and the calendar as the Big Book had instructed, but then he’d done absolutely nothing else with them except put them in the drawer by the cash register. And nothing bad had happened. Nothing. He’d peacefully taken an early retirement from the force, opened the bookstore, and set about reading books, drinking coffee, and watching the Giants on the little television in the shop. Nothing bad had happened at all.

Then he noticed, just below the title on the Big Book were the words revised edition. Words that had not been there, he was sure, before the Emperor had come into the shop.

He pulled open the drawer, swept the pencils and office supply detritus aside, and pulled out the calendar he’d bought. Right there, in the first week of January, was a name and number, written in his handwriting. Then another, every few days to a week, until the end of the month, all in his handwriting, none of which he remembered writing.

He flipped through the pages. The entire calendar was filled. But nothing had happened. None of the ominous warnings in the Big Book had come to pass. He tossed the calendar back into the drawer and opened the Great Big Book of Death to the first page, a first page that had changed since he’d first read it.

It read: "So, you fucked up—"

AHHHHHHHIEEEEEEEEEE! A piercing shriek from right behind him.

Rivera leapt two feet into the air and bounced off the cash register as he turned to face the source of the scream, landing with his hand on his hip, his eyes wide, and his breath short.

"Santa Maria!"

A woman, wraith thin, pale as blue milk, trailing black rags like tattered shrouds, stood there—right there—not six inches away from him. She smelled of moss, earth, and smoke.

How did you get—

AHHHHHHHHIEEEEEEEEE! Right in his face this time. He scrambled backward against the counter, leaning away from her in spine-cracking dread.

Stop that!

The wraith took a step back and grinned, revealing blue-black gums. It’s what I do, love. Harbinger of doom, ain’t I?

She took a deep breath as if to let loose with another scream and there was an electric sizzle as the stun gun’s electrodes found purchase through her tatters. She dropped to the floor like a pile of damp rags.

2

THE RUMORS OF MY DEMISE

You can’t just shag a nun one time then dine out on it for the rest of your life," said Charlie Asher.

You’re not exactly dining out, said Audrey. She was thirty-five, pale and pretty, with a side-swoop of auburn hair and the sort of lean strength and length of limb that made you think she might do a lot of yoga. She did a lot of yoga. You never leave the house.

She loved Charlie, but in the year they’d been together, he’d changed.

She was sitting on an Oriental rug in what had been the dining room of the huge Victorian house that was now the Three Jewels Buddhist Center. Charlie stood nearby.

That’s what I’m saying. I can’t go out like this. I need to have a life, make a difference.

You have made a difference. You saved the world. You defeated the forces of darkness in battle. You’re a winner.

I don’t feel like a winner; I’m fourteen inches tall, and when I walk, my dick drags in the dirt.

Sorry, Audrey said. It was an emergency. She hung her head, pulled her knees up to her chin, and hid her face. He had changed. When she’d met him he’d been a sweet, handsome widower—a thin fellow who wore nice, secondhand suits and was desperately trying to figure out how to raise a six-year-old daughter on his own in a world gone very strange. Now he stood knee-high, had the head of a crocodile, the feet of a duck, and he wore a purple satin wizard’s robe under which was slung his ten-inch schlong.

No, it’s fine, fine, Charlie said. It was a nice thought.

I thought you’d like it, Audrey said.

"I know. And you did save me. I’m not trying to be ungrateful. He attempted a reassuring smile, but his sixty-eight spiked teeth and glassy black eyes diluted the reassuring effect. He really missed having eyebrows to raise in a friendly way. He reached out to pat her arm, but the raptor talons that she’d given him for hands poked her and she pulled away. It’s a very nice unit, he added quickly. It’s just, well, not very useful. Under different circumstances, I’m sure we’d both enjoy it."

I know, I feel like a bad genie.

Don’t tease, Audrey, it’s hard enough without imagining you dressed as a genie.

They’d made love once, well, a few times, the night before he’d died, but after she’d resurrected his soul in this current body, which she’d built from spare parts and luncheon meat, they’d agreed that they would abstain from sex because it would be creepy—and because he lost consciousness whenever he got an erection—but mostly because it would be creepy.

No, I mean I feel like you made a wish, and I granted it, but you forgot to specify the circumstances, so you were tricked.

When did I ever wish I had this? He gestured to his dong, which unfurled out of his robe and plopped onto the rug.

"You were pretty delirious when you were dying. I mean, you didn’t explicitly ask for it, but you did go on about your regrets, most of which seemed to be about women you hadn’t had sex with. So I thought—"

I’d been poisoned. I was dying.

During his battle in the sewers below San Francisco with a trinity of ravenlike Celtic death goddesses called the Morrigan, one had raked him with her venomous claws, which eventually killed him.

Well, I was improvising, said Audrey. I’d just had sex for the first time in twelve years, so I may have put a bit too much emphasis on the male parts. Overcompensated.

Like with your hair?

What’s wrong with my hair? She patted her swoop of hair, which approximated the shape of Hokusai’s The Great Wave, and would have looked more in place on the runway of an avant-garde fashion show in Paris than it did anywhere in San Francisco, especially in a Buddhist center.

Nothing’s wrong with it, Charlie said. How had he blundered into talking about her hair? He was a beta male and he knew by instinct that there was no winning when it came to discussing a woman’s hair. No matter where on that path you started, you were bound to stumble into a trap. Sometimes he thought he might have lost a mental step or two in the transfer of his soul to this body, even if it had been done only moments after his death. "I love your hair, he said, trying for the save. But you’ve said yourself that you were sort of overcompensating for having your head shaved for twelve years in Tibet."

Maybe, she said. She was going to have to let it go. For one thing, as a Buddhist nun, being vain and whiny about how her hair looked was a distinct regression in spiritual evolution; plus, she had trapped the man she loved in a tiny body she’d cobbled together from disparate animal parts and a good-sized block of turkey ham, and she felt responsible. This was not the first time they’d had this discussion, and she couldn’t bear to extricate herself from it using a weak, Kung Fu of the Disrespected Hairdo move. She sighed. I don’t know how to get you into a proper body, Charlie.

So there it was, the truth as she knew it, laid out on the carpet as limp and useless as—well—you know.

Charlie’s jaw (and there was a lot of it) dropped open. Before, she’d always said it might be complicated, difficult, but now . . . When I started buying soul vessels from your and the other Death Merchants’ stores, putting them into the Squirrel People, I didn’t know how to do that either. I mean, I knew the ritual, but there was no text that said it would work. But it did. So maybe I can figure something out.

She didn’t believe for a second she could figure it out. She’d moved souls from soul vessels into the meaty dolls she constructed, using the p’howa of forceful projection, thinking that she was saving them. And she’d used the p’howa of undying on six terminally ill old ladies, thinking she was saving their lives, when, in fact, she had simply slowed their deaths. She was a Buddhist nun who had been given the lost scrolls of the Tibetan Book of the Dead and she could do things that no one else on Earth could do, but she couldn’t do what Charlie wanted her to.

The problem is the body, isn’t it? asked Charlie.

"Kind of. I mean, we know there are people out there walking around without souls, and that eventually a soul vessel will find them, they will find it, but what would happen to their personality if we forced your soul into someone, then they encounter their soul vessel?"

That would probably be bad.

Right, plus, when a soul goes into a vessel it loses its personality: the longer it’s out of a body, the less personality it retains, which is good. I think that’s why we learn as Buddhists that we have to let go of ego to ascend spiritually. So what if I could move your soul into someone who didn’t have a soul, hasn’t encountered their soul vessel yet. It might destroy their personality, or yours. I don’t want to lose you again.

Charlie didn’t know what to say. She was right, of course. The Squirrel People were prime examples of souls without memory of their personalities. Except for a couple, whom Audrey had moved when the soul had been fresh in the soul vessel, all of them were just goofy little meat puppets. They’d built their own little city under the porch.

Phone, said the meat puppet Bob as he entered the room, followed by a dozen other Squirrel People Charlie’s size. Bob was so called because Audrey had constructed him using a bobcat skull, which now sat on the bright red miniature beefeater uniform of a Tower of London guard. He was the only one of the Squirrel People besides Charlie who could talk; the others hissed, clicked, and mimed to get their points across, but they were all elegantly dressed in the costumes Audrey had made for them.

Bob handed the cordless handset to Audrey, who clicked the speaker button.

Hello, she said.

A little girl’s voice said, I am become Death, destroyer of worlds!

Audrey held the phone out for Charlie. It’s for you.

Detective Inspector Nick Cavuto, Rivera’s partner on the SFPD for fifteen years, stood over the pile of pale and black that lay on the floor behind the counter of Rivera’s store.

Looks like you killed a witch, he said. Sad, he said. Lunch?

He was six foot four, two hundred and sixty pounds, and took great pride in playing the old-school, tough-guy detective: wearing a fedora from the 1940s, rumpled suits, chomping on cigars he never lit, and carrying a blackjack in his back pocket that Rivera had never seen him use. In the Castro, where he lived, he was known as Inspector Bear. Not to his face, of course.

She’s not dead, said Rivera.

Shame. I was hoping munchkins would come sing the ding-dong song in your shop.

She’s not dead.

"We could knock off a couple of verses if you want. I’ll start. You come in on ‘which old witch’?"

She’s not dead.

How long’s she been out?

About twenty minutes, then thirty minutes, that’s when I called you, then—he checked his watch—about fifteen minutes.

So she came to and you rezapped her?

Until I could figure out what to do.

You miss the job, don’t you? Cavuto pushed his hat back on his head and looked to Rivera for the confession. You know, technically, you being active reserve, you can ride along with me anytime you feel like Tasing someone. Zapping random hippie chicks in your store can’t be good for business. You’ll have to buy lunch, of course.

When they were both on the job, Cavuto usually started talking about lunch while he was still eating breakfast.

She’s not a normal hippie chick.

No doubt, most people are just down then right back up. That’s a long time to be out from a stun gun.

Rivera shrugged. It’s her best quality, as far as I can tell.

You’re going to have to figure something out, you can’t keep stunning her, I can smell burning—is that Scotch?

Peat, I think. Yeah. That’s not from the stun gun, that’s just how she smells.

Want me to cuff her? Take her in? I can probably get a psych hold on her for the outfit alone.

I think she might be a supernatural being, Rivera said. He rubbed his temples so he didn’t have to look at Cavuto’s reaction.

Like the alleged bird woman you allegedly shot nine times before she allegedly turned into a giant raven and allegedly flew the fuck off ? Like that?

She was going to kill Charlie Asher.

You said she was giving him a hand job.

This one’s different.

No hand job?

No, in that she’s a completely different creature. This one doesn’t have claws that I can see. This one just screams.

But you’re sure she’s supernatural because . . . ?

Because when she screams my head fills with images of people dying and other horrible things. She’s a supernatural being.

"You’re a supernatural being, ya berk," said a female voice from the floor. She sat up.

Rivera and Cavuto jumped back, the latter with a slight yip.

One of those wee soul collectors, ain’t ya? Sneakin’ about all invisible-like. She tossed her hair out of her face—a twig flew out onto the carpet.

You’re not from around here, are you? said Cavuto, acting as if he hadn’t just yipped in fear like a tiny frightened dog.

AHHHHHHHHIEEEEEEEEE!

The two jumped back farther as she climbed to her feet. Cavuto shook his head as if trying to clear a cloud from his vision.

See? said Rivera.

Do you have any ID ma’am? asked Cavuto.

"I’m Bean Sidhe, ya great mortal twat! AHHHHHHHIEEEEEEEE!"

ZZZZZT! said the stun gun.

She fell back into a pile of rags. Cavuto had snatched the stun gun and put her down himself. He handed it back to Rivera then knelt, drew the handcuffs from his belt, and snapped them around her slight wrists.

She’s cold.

Supernatural, said Rivera.

She’s not the only one, evidently. He took off his hat so Rivera could see his cocked eyebrow of inquisition.

I’m not supernatural.

I don’t judge. I am not a judger. It’s traumatic. I know how I felt when I got outed by surprise.

How was that a surprise? You were marching in the Pride Parade wearing your dress blue uniform with no pants and a yellow codpiece.

"Didn’t mean I was gay; Cops without Pants was the theme that year. You got any duct tape? That shriek is fucking spooky." Cavuto rolling with the weird, as he always had. He had the ability to deny a supernatural situation while simultaneously dealing with it in a practical way, which is why Rivera had called him in the first place.

You’re going to tape her mouth?

Only until I get her to St. Francis and can get them to sedate her and sign off on a psych hold. I’ll say she did it herself.

St. Francis isn’t ten blocks from here. Throw her in the car, hit the lights, and you’ll be there before she comes to.

I’m not going to carry her to the car when she is perfectly capable of walking on her own, probably.

I’ll help you. It might be twenty minutes before she comes to.

Plenty of time for you to go buy burgers down the block and bring them back.

I’ll call the order in and go pick it up.

Curly fries. Two doubles, no tomato. You’re buying.

Inspector Cavuto, you are a huge lunch whore, said Rivera, reaching for the phone.

"Protect and served, lunch—SFPD motto. The big cop grinned. But it may not be a bad idea to keep her down. I have some zip restraints in the car for her ankles. Call for burgers."

Rivera hit the burger button on speed dial and watched his ex-partner lumber out to the brown Ford sedan, which was, as usual, parked in a red zone. The big man popped the trunk and stirred around inside.

The girl from the burger place came on the line with a perky, Polk Street Gourmet Burgers, can I help you?

Yeah, I’d like—

ZZZZZT!

He barely heard the sound, just a spine-wrenching white-hot pain that started at the back of his neck and bolted to his extremities. Through the sizzling disruption of his thoughts he remembered he’d left the stun gun on the counter behind him. When he came to, Cavuto was kneeling over him.

How long was I out?

Ten, maybe fifteen seconds.

Rivera rubbed the back of his head. Must have hit it on the edge of the counter when he fell. Every joint in his body hurt. He rolled to his hands and knees and looked back to where the raggedy woman had been lying.

Gone, said Cavuto. He dangled his handcuffs in front of Rivera’s eyes. They were still locked. I heard her scream again, ran in, she was gone.

The back door is locked, said Rivera. Go after her.

Not going to matter. She’s gone.

What’s with all the smoke? She start a fire?

Nope. Just a cloud of smoke behind the counter where I guess she was standing when she zapped you.

Oh.

Yeah, said Cavuto. You’re going to need to call someone with more experience at this than me. He picked up the phone receiver from the floor, held it to his ear. Yeah, did you get that order? Two double burgers, medium well, everything but tomatoes, curly fries. He looked at Rivera. You want anything?

3

SOMETHING ABOUT SOPHIE

Sophie Asher was seven years old. She lived in San Francisco with her aunties, Jane and Cassie, on the second floor of a building that overlooked the cable-car line in North Beach. Sophie had dark hair and blue eyes, like her mother, and an overactive imagination, like her father, although both parents were gone now, which is why she was looked after by her aunties; two widows who lived in the building, Mrs. Ling and Mrs. Korjev; as well as two enormous black hellhounds, Alvin and Mohammed, that had simply appeared in her room when she was a toddler. She liked dressing up like a princess, playing with her plastic ponies, eating Crunchy Cheese Newts, and making grandiose declarations about her power over the Underworld and her dominion over Death, which was why she was currently in a time-out in her room while Auntie Jane was frantically chattering into the phone out in the great room.

From time to time, Sophie popped her head out the door and fired off another salvo of flamboyant nonsense, because she was the Luminatus, dammit, and she would have the last word.

I am become Death, destroyer of worlds! she shouted, her passion somewhat diffused when the pink ribbon holding her pigtail caught in the door as she ducked back into her room.

So, that’s what we’re dealing with here, said Jane into the phone. She’s gotten completely out of hand. Jane was tall, angular, and wore her short platinum hair sculpted into various unlikely permutations, from angry spikes to soft finger waves, all of which played counterpoint to the tailored men’s suits she wore when she worked at the bank, making her appear either fiercely pretty, or frightfully confused. Right now she wore a houndstooth tweed Savile Row suit she’d inherited from Charlie, waistcoat with watch chain, and a pair of eight-inch patent-leather red pumps the same shade as her

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  • (4/5)
    A great follow-up to A Dirty Job. The one thing I love about Moore's books is the feeling of dread and urgency that he very clearly conveys. I feel if I put the book down, hell will literally break loose.
  • (4/5)
    Fair Warning: From here on out, there will be MAJOR SPOILERS for the first book in this series, A Dirty Job. If you haven’t read A Dirty Job yet, you should really be reading that instead of this review.So it’s been a year since the events of A Dirty Job; the apocalypse was averted, the underworld defeated, and Charlie Asher’s soul has been bound into a 14-inch high body made from animal parts and lunchmeat (and a 10-inch penis, naturally). This particular form being unsuited for parenting, his 7 year old daughter Sophie (Death with a big ‘D’) is being raised by his sister and her wife.Then the keening (and insistent, especially where a taser is involved) wailing of a banshee warns that maybe the apocalypse wasn’t as averted as originally thought. It seems that thousands of spirits are being trapped by the Golden Gate Bridge, that the Morrigan are clawing their way back into the world, and that a new, smooth, death wannabe is wreaking havoc on the established order of things. Oh, and it seems that Sophie’s hellhounds have gone missing and her mojo might be on the wane.I’ve been a huge fan of Christopher Moore ever since Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. Moore’s books are one of my go-tos when I need a comfort read. Secondhand Souls certainly follows in the Moore tradition, with the irreverent and (I mean this in the best possible way) juvenile humor that makes him so much fun. Now, I will say that this is not his strongest work, but maybe that is because A Dirty Job was easily one of his best. Without the pathos of single-dad Charlie Asher trying to figure out how to raise his death-incarnate daughter to be a well-rounded human being, the story is a bit flat. Nonetheless, I found myself laughing out loud and enjoying myself, so I feel the book was a success. Fans of Moore, Dave Barry, or A. Lee Martinez should absolutely pick up this book.I won a copy of this book in a giveaway by William Morrow Pubishing.
  • (3/5)
    Charlie Asher used to collect souls. There has been a gap, when many souls that should have been collected, weren’t. Somehow this is all related to the Golden Gate Bridge. This is the sequel to “A Dirty Job”, which was one of my favourites by Moore. Unfortunately, this one fell quite a bit short for me. I’m rating it ok at 3 stars, which might be a bit generous. It was nice to revisit some characters and I was interested as some events were happening, but I often missed connections on why something was happening (hence the sketchy summary in my first paragraph!). I listened to the audio, and I did think the narrator did a good job – he particularly did well with various accents.
  • (4/5)
    hristopher Moore is pretty much crazy and unrepentant. Forget being a fly on the wall, I'd love to spend the day inhabiting his brain because I don't think there's ever a boring minute in it. I first started reading Moore's novels many years ago now when my book club was looking for a non-sentimental Christmas read (hello The Stupidest Angel). Intrigued by his wonderfully warped view on things, we later moved on to his hilariously irreverent novel Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal. I've since moved so I have no idea if that book club continues to periodically visit the weird that is Moore's creative output, but I do. Secondhand Souls, the sequel to A Dirty Job, is his latest entry into the wacky and bizarre world he has conjured up and it is as quirky, funny, and insane as I've come to expect from Moore.At the end of A Dirty Job, the world was saved (if you haven't read it and think this is a spoiler, get your knickers out of a twist and get over yourself) but that doesn't mean it had to stay that way. The cast of characters from the first novel notices that things seem to be heading a little (a lot) off kilter again. And when a banshee comes to warn them of the impending doom coming their way, a doom unlike that which they've seen before, they will have to come together to fight the forces of darkness again. This time there are ghosts congregating at the Golden Gate Bridge, the meat puppets have something slightly sinister going on amongst themselves, the remaining Death Merchants are so far behind on their soul collections they'll never catch up, and the Morrigan have a smooth talking, dangerous supernatural companion on their side. How Charlie, Sophie, Minty Fresh, Inspector Rivera, Lily, and Audrey will face all of this makes for a completely madcap read.As downright zany and convoluted as this sounds (and it is), Moore is a master at weaving his strange plot threads together to form a coherent and entertaining story. There is humor here as well as chaos and hijinks. The story and some of the situations are twisted (encouraging a person to commit suicide for the greater good?!) but everything works so well in the service of the story that even the questionable is forgiven. As a sequel, this is best read after A Dirty Job, otherwise some of the characters and their current situations take some adjusting to but for people who already appreciate Moore's offbeat mythology, this is a welcome addition to his canon. Even though there's absolutely nothing about a Moore novel that fits into my regular reading preferences (no to fantasy, no to paranormal, and a huge no to Death), they are like crack; once you've read one, you can't wait for the next hit and I appreciated Secondhand Souls for the rollicking and fast ride it was.
  • (4/5)
    This is the sequel to 2006's A Dirty Job. The whole gang is back, more or less in one piece. However, once again some Death Merchants have failed to collect souls as The Big Book of Death instructs, so the Underworld is about to take over. Again. Like all Christopher Moore books, this is a really funny and enjoyable read. The diverse cast provides the reader with a glimpse into San Francisco life (albeit one that is dealing with the imminent end of the world as they know it). While I enjoyed this quite a lot, I don't feel it was as strong as A Dirty Job, but I'm really glad the thing I thought might happen at the end did not happen after all. Also, this book kept me guessing as to who the real villain was and whether they were truly villainous. I love that.
  • (4/5)
    We start finding out the main character from the last book, Charlie Asher, who ‘died’, has spent the last year living in a 14” tall meat puppet with a small crocodile skull and a 10” slong he wears as a cumberbund. And when he gets aroused, he passes out. This gives some idea of the type of book you are getting into. A bit crass, at times vulgar and entirely funny.Charlie Asher and his buddhist nun girlfriend Audrey, have spent the last year trying to figure out how to get Asher a new body to inhabit that wasn’t 14” tall and made of lunch meat, his daughter Sophie is death incarnate with a mouth like a sailor, and her protective hellhounds of gone missing. Leaving her relatively defenseless. This increases Charlie's need to find a new body rather urgently. Minty Fresh had gone back to business as usual, and Inspector Alphonse Rivera, retired opened a bookstore to be a Death Merchant and didn’t actually do his job. And Lilly got a job on with the suicide help hotline.First the Emperor of San Francisco shows up in Rivera’s book shop with a quest to write down all the names of the dead, then a banshee shows up and starts screaming about impending doom, it doesn’t look like things are going to be quiet for much longer. Rivera goes to meet Minty, the only other Death Merchant he knows is still alive to discuss these developments. All the these people start sharing information and the picture it is painting is not good. For anyone, living or dead still on Earth.So they need to find someone willing to give up their body, preferably a healthy male body, so Charlie can help the group stop the apocalypse. Oh and Audrey’s little friends, the squirrel people are going beyond expectations and have a little revolt of their own. Adding just that much more chaos into the mix.This book was funny and well written, even with the vulgarity thrown in. I enjoyed reading it and for those who like Terry Pratchett but with a bit more sex and dirty words I think you’d like it too. For those easily offended I might suggest finding something else. I will certainly be trying more of Christopher Moore’s writing in the future.
  • (4/5)
    DO NOT READ THIS UNLESS YOU READ BOOK 1 FIRST...like i didn't. (Good luck deciphering that triple negative.)Kind of dumb, I grabbed this at the bookstore when it came out because I love Christopher Moore but didn't realize it was the second book in a series. So while there are many hilarious moments in this book, there is also a lot of convoluted backstory that would have been much easier to follow had I read A Dirty Job.Even so, I quite enjoyed it. No one can do paranormal comedy like Moore. His humor tends to be character based (snarky females are a forte) and through the juxtaposition of the supernatural with the mundane (a banshee with a taser). In a word: camp.The plot involves some eating of souls, reincarnated baddies, demon dogs, a 14" tall alligator-headed duck-foot meat creature with a foot long dong, and assorted other absurd characters. It's a blast. If you read the first one, even better. I'm sure. I'll know better next time.
  • (3/5)
    It was okay, but not what I wanted. I didn't want to read about Charlie, I wanted to read about Sophie, but instead she was mostly kept offstage.

    Library copy
  • (3/5)
    Fantasy stories are always a bit weird. That's part of the definition of the genre, right? This one's weirder than most. It's a contemporary fantasy, not an epic one, set in modern San Francisco with a cast of extremely odd characters...odd even for California. They include a hot Buddhist nun, several people who collect souls of the recently departed, a couple incarnations of Egyptian gods, and a guy who is currently living as a racoon-sized patchwork creation with a crocodile head and...other outsize body parts best left unmentioned in polite reviews. His seven-year-old daughter may be Death (with a big D). Oh, and there are ghosts and sundry others. Like I said, odd characters. Obviously, this is comic fantasy. It's crude but not obscene; silly but not stupid. Approached in the right state of mind, it's quite funny.
  • (4/5)
    Poor Charlie Asher may be not dead (exact,y) but he's finding life in a makeshift body leaves a lot to be desired. His daughter doesn't know he's alive and his soulmate finds his little "squirrel person" body repugnant. Besides, hi claws keep catching in the carpet. But worse things are in store as trouble is brewing in the underworld and the problems Charlie, Minty Fresh and their friends had laid to rest seem to be reawakening. A hilarious sequel.
  • (2/5)
    Sequel to "A Dirty Job": Charlie Asher was a collector of souls, his baby daughter, Sophie, Death, when the underworld decided it wanted to take over and change the balance of things... Charlie's soul was transferred into that of a 14 inch body made of lunch meat & spare animal parts.

    The Morrigan have returned with the Destroyer, Lemon, Minty's cousin.

    Charlie is given a new body and is working with his friends: Audrey, Detective Rivera, Minty Fresh, Lily, The Emperor, M. Baptiste, and the Banshee in order to defeat the Morrigan and the Destroyer so to reestablish order in the world.

    I missed the humor in this sequel... The characters were rather obnoxious, dull, out of touch, or a combination of the three...

    What I was more interested in were the stories of the souls of the bridge, although the one that was of a former Giants baseball player was long, involved, boring, and senseless..... Just filler....

    We NEVER find out what happens to Sophie, so I'm thinking Moore has another installment planned which hopefully will not be as dull as this one!
  • (4/5)
    This was an excellent audiobook, Fisher Stevens did a great job with all the characters. I found this to be hilarious and I kept trying to mark down times for all the quotes I wanted to remember. Awesome and I can't wait to find more from Moore.
  • (4/5)
    This book is wacky and zany. Sometimes it was so surreal that it was a bit hard to follow in the middle, but all that got straightened out in the last third as the book barreled along towards its very sweet ending. (Confession: I skipped the entire story of the ghost who played baseball, why is that there?) If you liked the first book (A Dirty Job), this followup is for you. Reading this book, you could ponder what it means to be human, to be alive, to have family... or you could bust a gut chuckling.
  • (5/5)
    I read A Dirty Job and longed for a sequel. Totally worth the wait. Moore's sense of humor is definitely not for everyone - sometimes juvenile and crude and liberally sprinkled with profanity - but for those who appreciate it, laugh out loud moments await, especially with the audiobook's colorful and entertaining narration. From Minty Fresh's jive talk to the lilting yet scratchy dialogue of 3 ancient Celtic witches (sort of), the narrator provides a spectrum of voices, bringing the story vividly to life. Goofy humor, mystery and detection, and fantastical adventures make an irresistible brew.
  • (4/5)
    A follow-up to Moore's A Dirty Job, Secondhand Souls continues to follow Charlie Asher, Minty Fresh, Lily, and Sophie as they try to figure out how to deal with the whole death and soul vessel retrieval thing. When we left Charlie Asher in A Dirty Job, Audrey had put his soul into one of the squirrel people, meat puppets she'd cobbled together from spare parts of other animals. Secondhand Souls opens a year later, our motley crew discovering that people are dying, but their souls are not being collected. This can't be good. They try to figure out how to stop the impending doom, racing against time.This is a great continuation of A Dirty Job...so fun!I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Secondhand Souls through librarything.com's Early Reviewers program. Thank you, librarything!
  • (4/5)
    Christopher Moore is one of the most popular authors at the bookstore where I worked, and for a good reason. This sequel to A Dirty Job does not disappoint. Although not as good as the first, the story and the story teller are a joy to read. Definitely a keeper!!
  • (4/5)
    Christopher Moore does it again. With wit, charm, and one of the most colorful imaginations writing today, "Secondhand Souls" is a playful diverting read. This sequel to "A Dirty Job" re-introduces the characters from that book. A year has passed since the world almost ended, and just when the characters' lives are settling back into some sequence of normality, the world is under threat again. Ghosts are amassing at the Golden Gate Bridge, the Morrigan have reappeared along with a new malevolent deity, the hellhounds have left Sophie's protection, and the Squirrel People are revolting. It's up to Charlie, Lily, Minty Fresh, and the others to figure out what is happening and how to stop it. Readers will absolutely have to read "A Dirty Job" first to make any sense of this story. Moore's writing is distinct and quirky, and perhaps not universally appealing. But to me, reading Moore is always a pleasure.
  • (4/5)
    Having only read one of his books before, I knew what to expect from Christopher Moore. Hilarity, humor and wouldn't you guess, even more laugh-til-you-weep prose. This is definitely worth the read. I haven't read the first book in this series, so I guess I'm a little ahead. Oh well! Happy reading!
  • (3/5)
    It was still a funny Christopher Moore romp, but I've gotten spoiled by his takes on Shakespeare and Impressionism and Jesus. The San Francisco tales are delightful, but less meaty and I miss the depth of his "historical" tales.
  • (4/5)
    This sequel to A Dirty Job was exactly what you would expect from Christopher Moore: a funny, quirky well written romp. You will definitely need to read the first book before reading this one, but it is a great read!
  • (4/5)
    After staring at the wall for thirty minutes, I still don't know how to approach this review. I'm just winging it so be patient with me. The story is pretty straightforward and the pace is quick, but not rushed. The crazy characters from Dirty Jobs are back along with Moore's unique comedy style...which is so bizarre that I just can't wrap the logical part of my brain around it. Maybe that's my problem. Logical comedy. Is comedy logical? Probably not. Christopher Moore is either a genius or an escaped mental patient. Your guess is as good as mine. All I know is that I laughed all day and this book blew my mind. Seriously, I think I hurt something. My advice to you should you pick up this series: Definitely listen to the audiobook. Absolutely fabulous narration! Also, I blushed more than once over the language, body humor, etc., so be aware if you're sensitive to that sort of thing. Enjoy!
  • (4/5)
    First, a disclaimer. I love Chris Moore unreservedly, so my reviews of his books are always biased.This book is a sequel to A Dirty Job, so if you haven't read that one yet, read it first. I can't say for sure, but I feel like this book would be confusing for folks who haven't read A Dirty Job already.Chris's books are always funny. He has the sense of humor of a 12 year old boy, but my kids say I do too, so maybe that's why I enjoy him so much. Chris has a knack for combining the profane and the profound. This book might have a bit more emphasis on the profane...Chris really has an ear for dialogue too. Again, often profane, but always hilarious. And you get the feeling he really loves his characters.If you haven't read a Moore book before, if you like humor and aren't easily offended, please pick one up. Start with Practical Demonkeeping or Coyote Blue. Or even A Dirty Job. Yeah. That one. Then you can read this one. And your neighbors will probably ask you to stop laughing so loudly.
  • (3/5)
    All Christopher Moore books are entertaining, some more so than other. This falls in the latter category. I enjoyed it, I liked coming back to the characters, but I didn't enjoy it as much as Dirty Job. It feels like it was written either because Mr. Moore needed a new car, or (more likely) to get his more rabid fans off his back about writing a sequel to Dirty Job.
  • (5/5)
    A Bright Pink book catches my eye on the library Lucky Day Shelf. How could I resist a brand new Christopher Moore? I snatched up yet another crazy tale from the imagination of Christoper Moore, one of my favs! Out of his mind pops a tale of 400 pound hellhounds, rivals Lemon who always wears yellow and Minty fresh always adorned in green, a little girl who can kill by saying a simple usually innocuous word, little critters cobbled together from various animal parts to collect human souls, ghosts attached indefinitely to the Golden Gate Bridge and many more!! And since this book is a sequel to "A Dirty Job", I have a dirty job to do, too! I sure hope the asylum attendants keep supplying Mr. Moore with plenty of paper and crayons. To help save my insanity, I always crave more Moore!!!
  • (3/5)
    A decent follow up to Dirty Job that has some funny moments but just didn't have me chuckling as much as the first book. While the the plot had some interesting ideas I just felt that they didn't mesh together as well as they could. In addition while the ghost story parts were kind of interesting they felt more like filler as they really didn't add anything to the story. Also some of the subplot kind of just fizzled out with not much happening. Overall its a decent read if you like Christopher Moore but i don't think its one of his best works
  • (5/5)
    Admittedly, I was quite nervous with reading a sequel. I do not believe Mr. Moore has followed up on any of his books and after the ending of A Dirty Job, I was curious as to how this would be done taking into consideration the manner in which the first book concluded.This books was pure entertainment. Sure, there were times when characters behaved to an extreme that seemed annoying and a few questions of why characters did Y as opposed to X which was more logical and easier but those issues were quickly forgotten in this tale. As with several of his previous books, I laughed out loud. I still find this an amazing feat but he succeed without anything but words on a page to make me laugh. I am always stunned and impressed when writing can do that to me.The characters are great to the point where I got quite stressed when I believed something bad might happen. Good writing.
  • (5/5)
    If you liked a Dirty Job, you will like Secondhand Souls. All your favorite characters are back. Like Bear. And you get to meet new ones, like the cheese loving Wiggly Charlie. If you haven't read the first book, you may be a little lost.
  • (3/5)
    Funny as hell, (as expected from any Christopher Moore book). Better than the earlier books in this series. Minty Fresh and his cousin Lemon Fresh bring a particularly funny subplot to this volume. The squirrel people evolve to new heights of weird. Hellhounds couldn't keep me from reading a new Christopher Moore book, and this one is no exception.
  • (4/5)
    Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book via LibraryThing Early Reviewers. Also, IT GLOWS IN THE DARK so don't be freaked out :)I think the most important bit of info to pass on about this book is that you will enjoy it more if you read (or re-read) Dirty Job first. It works as a stand-alone, but you'll enjoy it so much more if you have the back story.The second important bit of information, if you are new to Christopher Moore, is that if you are really uptight about religion, you should probably pass his work by. He hilariously skewers religious tropes of all flavors, and if you can't laugh about that, um....that's a problem.Having made those caveats:I liked this book, and definitely laughed out loud often while reading it. It alternates between creepy and funny in turns, and was a fun read. The only really criticism I have is that I think the author struggled a bit with portraying black folks. Some of the dialog/situations kind of falls flat there.
  • (4/5)
    If you like Christopher Moore, then you really like Christopher Moore. If you don't like Christopher Moore, then...well, I just can't say because I like him, my wife likes him, and I've not run into anyone who doesn't like him. Suffice to say that, if you like Christopher Moore, then you will thoroughly enjoy this book because it continues in the vein of his previous works. A fun, entertaining, enjoyable read with skewed characters and a world that, while definitely off-kilter, is quite acceptable in the universe he postulates.This is the follow-up to A Dirty Job. (You do not need to have read that book to enjoy and understand this one; enough back story is provided that you can keep up to speed without it impeding the enjoyment of those of us who read the previous one. Then again, if you haven't read it, go back and do so. No, you don't need to, but why deprive yourself of the enjoyment of reading another Moore book.)Most of the memorable cast returns: the homeless Emperor of San Francisco, the 5-year-old Luminatus Sophie, the hellhounds Alvin and Mohammed, the Buddhist-nun Audrey, and Charlie who has been kept from death by being put in a fourteen-inch body made up of spare parts. Once again, souls are not being collected, instead being used to by evil underworlders to try and get a foothold here above ground. There is a screaming banshee (is there any other kind), a bridge painter who has fallen in love with a ghost, a demon from hell named Lemon Fresh, and...Look, one of Moore's strengths is his ability to conjure (yes, used that word on purpose) strange characters that seem to come from different dimensions of the same left field. He mixes them up and puts together a plot. (In this case, trying to keep the evil of the underworld from using all those souls to take over.) And he mashes those characters and plots together in a way that is at the same time funny and perfectly logical (in all its illogic.)To be honest, my preference Moore's books where he explores different themes and historical avenues (e.g. Lamb, Fool, etc.) I find them stronger than his stories about strange creatures in today's world (his vampire series and this collection about the soul collectors.) However, that does not mean these books are not strong. Moore pretty much delivers every time he writes. And this is one more example of why I anxiously await each new publication.