Justin's Reviews > A Dirty Job

A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore
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Jul 06, 09

bookshelves: fiction, funny, shelf-of-fame
Read in July, 2009

I've been finding that I really want to read light, humorous stories lately, and while a story that revolves around death is not exactly light, Moore's sense of humor never fails to disappoint.

A Dirty Job is the story of Charlie Asher, a self-professed "Beta Male" that counts himself lucky to have what quiet blessings he possesses: a second-hand shop in San Francisco, a smart and lovely wife who inexplicably (in his eyes) loves him, and a baby on the way. Things start to go awry for Charlie, however, when he meets a tall, dark stranger who insists that Charlie shouldn't be able to see him. From there, not only does Charlie's carefully cultivated personal life start unraveling, but he begins to experience increasingly stranger phenomena, such as names magically appearing in his datebook, objects glowing with a light only he can see, people mysteriously dying when he comes to call, and shadowy bird-women catcalling him from passing storm drains. Charlie has been tapped for the timeless occupation of shuffling souls through the mortal coil, but just as he begins to process that realization, things get even stranger, and considerably more hazardous.

I don't want to give too much of the story away, because frankly, there isn't a whole lot of story to spoil. Astute readers will guess the "big reveal" well before it happens, possibly before they finish the first chapter (and this, I believe, is a conscious decision of the author). And much of the early part of the book revolves around trying to figure out just what exactly is going on, to the point where it took me about half of the book to tie together all of the disparate storylines and supernatural doings. Thankfully, this process is well lubricated by Moore's willingness to stop early and often to throw in a one-liner, most of which are hilarious. By the time everything starts making sense, the story ramps up considerably, with a great deal of sudden suspense and a surprisingly bittersweet conclusion.

Despite this story being told with Moore's trademark absurd wit, A Dirty Job handles death and grief in a very poignant manner. Moore's afterword reveals that the story was inspired by the care of his dying mother, and the resulting experience shows in a number of key scenes in the book. The believable (sometimes painfully so) way in which the book's characters prepare for death, mourn their loved ones, and deal with their grief provides a nice counterpoint to the goofy humor, and a common theme for all of the book's crazy characters and plot devices to share.

I honestly didn't know whether I was going to like this one as I started it, but the more I read A Dirty Job, the more I realized that this might be my favorite of Moore's. Of course, I still have quite a few of his books left to read. But this one is definitely a gem.
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