Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Dirty Job - Christopher Moore

Summary: Charlie Asher is a pretty normal guy. A little hapless, somewhat neurotic, sort of a hypochondriac. He’s what’s known as a Beta Male: the kind of fellow who makes his way through life by being careful and constant—you know, the one who’s always there to pick up the pieces when the girl gets dumped by the bigger/taller/stronger Alpha Male.

But Charlie’s been lucky. He owns a building in the heart of San Fransisco, and runs a secondhand store with the help of a couple of loyal, if marginally insane, employees. He’s married to a bright and pretty woman who actually loves him for his normalcy. And she, Rachel, is about to have their first child.

Yes, Charlie’s doing okay for a Beta Male. That is, until the day his daughter, Sophie, is born. Just as Charlie—exhausted from the birth—turns to go home, he sees a strange man in mint-green golf wear at Rachel’s hospital bedside, a man who claims that no one should be able to see him. But see him Charlie does, and from here on out, things get really weird. . . .

People start dropping dead around him, giant ravens perch on his building, and it seems that everywhere he goes, a dark presence whispers to him from under the streets. Strange names start appearing on his nightstand notepad, and before he knows it, those people end up dead, too. Yup, it seems that Charlie Asher has been recruited for a new job, an unpleasant but utterly necessary job: Death. It’s a dirty job. But hey, somebody’s gotta do it. (Summary from book - image from harpercollins.com)

My Review: As a reader, I’m pretty jaded. Far too often, I’ve been disappointed when books that came highly recommended turned out to be the same tired plots, flat characters, and hack writing as a thousand other bestsellers destined for the recycle bin. So when A Dirty Job was recommended to me almost five years ago (thanks, Becca!), I mentally filed it under “Maybe if I get really bored,” despite my respect for the recommender’s taste. Now I am kicking myself for wasted time, and running out to get every other Christopher Moore book I can get my hands on.

It’s hard to pick out the best aspects of this book, because from the first paragraph to the Author’s Note at the end, the entire thing is handled with finesse and twisted wit. Christopher Moore has a gift for characterization, and where most novels have a hard time making even the protagonist real and three-dimensional, A Dirty Job overflows with believable, breathing human (and otherworldly) characters whose lives and personalities continue to develop and deepen throughout the story.

The plot itself is a circus sideshow of bizarre twists, razor-sharp transitions, and increasing tension, all delivered in a deadpan voice that can switch from the pathos of a loved one’s funeral with unaffected sincerity, to a scene involving a 14-inch tall undead crocodile-headed assassin in a black silk tuxedo, without missing a beat. Page by page, A Dirty Job builds a world that is equal parts macabre humor, over-the-top insanity, and real life, so convincing and darkly seductive that even after the book is done you want to remain there, in Mr. Moore’s beautiful freakshow.

My Rating: 5 stars. Rated R for language, sexuality, demonic sexuality, violence, demonic violence, mature themes, infantile themes, and incredibly warped humor.

Sum it up: Black comedy at its best. Don’t let the high recommendation fool you—this is one to read immediately.

1 comment:

Becca said...

Gotta love Christopher Moore! Such a fun book!

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