Genre fiction lover: Romance, Sci Fi, Fantasy, Mystery, Urban Fantasy
Oh man, I love it when a book comes as a surprise. And not just a surprise but a really, really pleasant one.
Dave Anderson is a grim reaper. He, along with seven other reapers, work in the Orlando metro area harvesting souls. In this book reapers exist to help people who die unexpectedly (by accident or by violence) to cross over.
Because their 'clients' do not go gently into that good night, David and his fellow reapers are often the recipient of some confused, intensely emotional souls as well as being the witness to some of the most atrocious acts of violence that men and women visit upon each other.
Reapers are immortal but still human and because of the nature of their job, they all find different ways to cope. David finds refuge in walling away his emotions and trying to keep the job just a job. He has developed a cynical edge and doesn't allow himself to forge any type of close relationships.
Until he meets his next door neighbor Sarah. Sarah is a woman of science. She has a logical mind and believes in what evidence and empirical data can explain.
Until she meets her next door neighbor David.
I really loved the progression of not only the plot of this book but also the relationship. There were also some really nice character beats. David was a bit hardened and a lot tortured but he wasn't a jerk and underneath some of his cynicism there was a really decent guy who was trapped in a job he really hated. I liked him. I liked how he interacted with his trainee reaper Adam. In a sense the partnership was reminiscent of a veteran cop showing a rookie the ropes. It was also a very effective mechanism to explain show the Reaper work-a-day world worked without presenting the information via tired info dumps. We learned along with Adam as he and David go for their 'appointments'. I also enjoyed when all the reapers got together to talk shop and tell darkly humorous war stories of particularly gruesome deaths.
While this was primarily David's book, Sarah was no slouch. I love that the author made her smart and skeptical but not stupid. When Sarah discovers what David is she doesn't freak out. She is shocked and takes some time to come to terms with what she's seen. And that is the key thing. She believes her own eyes because to her that is real evidence. And once she takes that time, her inquisitive mind kicks in and she peppers David with intelligent questions.
The relationship blossoms from there and Dave tentatively allows himself to finally open up to Sarah. But he is an immortal and she isn't. And that has to be resolved somehow. Which of course it is.
One thing that kind of rung a sour note was the application of the rules of who went to heaven and who went to hell. A woman who is killed by her husband while she is having an affair is going to hell because she is an adulterer. Yet soldiers who kill during war don't necessarily. Thankfully Sarah points out this seeming lop-sided application. But David shrugs and says 'the rules are the rules.' I dunno, the idea of secular interpretations of sin being the deciding factor in how a God judges a soul doesn't quite sit right for me. Death being universal feels to me like it should transcend such things. I would have preferred that David knowing how the person would ultimately be judged was based on his sense of the person's basic good or evil rather than being able to point to a specific act that defines the ultimate fate of their soul.
But that is just a one-off moment that felt a little odd in a book that otherwise read as well thought out, well written and very entertaining.
There is a follow up which I will definitely read.