Mykle's Reviews > The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death

The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Huston
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's review
Apr 21, 2010

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This book combines an unbeatable and scrupulously-researched concept -- noir fiction about the people who clean up dead bodies! -- with an intricately structured crime story -- needy femme fatale draws hero into dangerous smuggling operation, and is then kidnapped! -- and a colorful cast of characters -- Chinese-American kung-fu father figure who is morbidly obese! -- and the whole thing screams I COULDN'T SELL THIS AS A SCREENPLAY SO I FIGURED I'D JUST WRITE IT AS A BOOK AND LICENSE THE FILM RIGHTS. It's one of those books that you start reading, keep reading and finish reading, despite a smoldering annoyance with the indigestible LA-ness and unlikelihood of it all.

That the hero is an incurable smart-ass jerk, and that his friends, foes and everyone he talks to are also incurable smart-ass jerks, and that you often can't tell which jerk is talking because they all sound so much like the same guy, leads me to worry that Charlie Huston may in fact be an incurable smart-ass jerk. I hope not. But he's really a bit too proud of his repartee, which is just slightly less witty than it thinks it is. (FWIW, my friend who lent me this book really did try to steer me toward a different Charlie Huston book, perhaps a better one.)

Everything about the characters in this book is straight out of Hollywood. The hero has a Dark Secret due to a Tragic Mishap (random, unavoidable, meaningless yet scarring) and we slowly learn that his smart-ass jerkiness is not the sign of someone being a colossal dick, but just a cry for help. His life is turned around by a Beautiful Girl who's suffered her own Tragic Mishap, but she's in trouble with The Wrong Kind Of People ... oh please.

Nevertheless, as bubblegum for a long plane flight, it's a fun, fluffy read. Dead people, at least, are always interesting.
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