Christopher Moore,
A Dirty Job
(William Morrow, 2006)

Christopher Moore's career has been a bit uneven -- Lamb is one of the funniest, wittiest and irreverent books of all time. Fluke, on the other hand, is only so-so and not a good introduction to Moore's writing talent. With A Dirty Job, Moore is in top form with satirical wit and social commentary wrapped up in a novel. He makes a nod to his earlier works by including characters from Coyote Blue, Bloodsucking Fiends and Practical Demonkeeping in either cameo or major supporting roles.

A Dirty Job follows Moore's tried-and-true formula -- our main character is a modest man who gets caught up in the underworld of demons, or vampires, or lust lizards, or Colonel Kurtz-like island rulers.

In this case, beta male Charlie Asher loses his wife after she delivers their daughter and then gets caught up in the business of Death and transporting souls to their correct destinations. His precocious daughter Sophie seems to have some supernatural powers of her own -- at a young age -- and then there are her gigantic black hellhounds who appear out of nowhere and serve as her constant protectors.

A Dirty Job is hilarious, biting and compassionate on the subject of death. The "eating cheese" scene alone is a beautiful testament to living life to its fullest.

Don't miss out on Moore's latest, and if you are looking for more of this brilliance, try his books Lamb, The Stupidest Angel and Bloodsucking Fiends.

by Jessica Lux-Baumann
3 June 2006

[ visit Christopher Moore's website ]

Someone's gotta do it.

Be it a pale-skinned goth girl or a skeletal reaper who SPEAKS IN CAPITAL LETTERS all the time, the persona of Death has captured the imagination of countless writers over the years. Christopher Moore takes a shot with A Dirty Job -- and it may just be his best work yet.

Charlie Asher is a beta male and, while it might seem in theory that he and his ilk would be overrun by the alphas of the world, the betas do have niches for which they are superiorly suited. Charlie, who runs a second-hand store in San Francisco, finds his after the death of his wife and birth of his daughter.

Rachel dies moments after delivering a beautiful daughter, Sophie, into Charlie's arms. But besides the normal hospital personnel one would expect to see at such a time, Charlie spies a tall, green-suited man who takes Rachel's favorite CD from the hospital room.

The man is Minty Fresh (really), and he is a minion of Death. Charlie is, too, it turns out, because he saw Fresh when no one should. Certain objects in his presence begin casting a reddish glow, and people begin dying in unusual numbers around him. Unfortunately, Charlie's manual on how to handle his new abilities and responsibilities -- primarily the collection and disbursement of souls, which are lodged in one of the deceased's most treasured items -- is hijacked by his perpetually depressed employee, Lily, who really wishes she had nifty powers, too.

Charlie catches on eventually, with the reluctant help of Fresh, and begins doing his business with a certain degree of charm and sympathy. It turns out that he, like Fresh, is one of countless little Deaths who handle the chore within their small, geographical spheres. They are, Charlie realizes, rather like Santa's Little Helpers, without the gifts.

But dangerous forces are at work, and the darkness -- personified by the triple goddess Morrigan -- is attempting to rise. Charlie's tiny realm in San Francisco may just be the weak link they've been seeking for centuries.

Moore has a wicked sense of humor and a stylish, writerly way about him that makes his novels an irresistable read. All his powers come to the fore in A Dirty Job, which proves him an author whose powers are still on the rise.

As usual, the book boasts a host of delightful supporting characters -- the cop who knows something is up, but realizes tampering in forces beyond his ken will cost him hours of paperwork; the Emperor, who rules the city from its Dumpsters and alleyways with his faithful dog companions; Audrey, who collects souls for her own reasons; Mrs. Ling and Mrs. Korjev, who babysit Sophie and represent the two great Eastern powers; and Jane, Charlie's suit-stealing sister.

Moore is America's answer to Douglas Adams, Tom Holt and Terry Pratchett, proof that a writer needn't be British to write consistently hilarious books. He is California's twisted genius, similar in style to Florida's Carl Hiaasen and Tim Dorsey but deliciously soused in modern fantasy. A Dirty Job is surprisingly touching, for all that, and is a novel anyone with a dash of whimsy should enjoy.

by Tom Knapp
3 June 2006

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