Dead Harvest is a detective horror story with a neat little twist; the lead character, Sam Thornton, is dead and damned, doomed to roam the earth as a ghost. His soul belongs to the powers of hell and he has been cursed to collect the souls of sinners and send them to the demons. Urban fantasy1 is tricky genre to get right; mix in too much of the supernatural and the tale becomes a clichéd creature feature, mix in too many mundane elements and the spooky parts seem gimmicky and false. Dead Harvest pulls of the rare feat of getting it exactly right; Sam’s power to possess the bodies of the dead (and the living) makes consistent sense, as does his doomed (and tear-jerking) backstory.
Like any good detective story, a young lady turns Sam’s world upside down, and the tale quickly becomes an action-movie inspired romp. As the main characters run from one dangerous situation to another, we grow to care about the supporting cast and learn more about this world where heaven and hell are so very close to an unknowing (and often uncaring) human race.
It’s pretty rapidly paced; the peril is layered on pretty thick and it’s this sense of urgency that really draws the reader in. The story takes place over a few short days, lending a leanness and speed to the whole thing. A good mystery story keeps the reader guessing, and though some of the twists seem obvious, the devil is the details. (I’m not going to tell you if I mean that literally. Read it for yourself and see.)
Fans of the Harry Dresden series and those who like their modern-day fantasy with a twist of hardboiled detective story will love this (as will fans of Good Omens and In Nomine). I firmly expect this page-turner to do well, and am pleased to hear that a sequel is already in the works.
1: A clunky term that usually means ‘set in the real world, with supernatural elements’. Typically with a healthy dose of horror story staples like ghosts and werewolves thrown in for good measure.