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A Dirty Job


A Dirty Job

Christopher Moore doesn't write normal books. Sometimes you can
MELANCHOLY COVE), while other times it takes more work. In the case
of A DIRTY JOB, the black cover shows an old-fashioned baby buggy
with a little skull-faced baby in it, who has a teeny scythe and a
big red bow. Take it from there.

This is a book about death --- but it's a Christopher Moore book
about death. Charlie Asher, a fairly ordinary guy, lucked out when
he met Rachel, who saw past the fact (or didn't mind) that Charlie
was a Beta Male (the kind of fellow who makes his way through life
by being careful and constant). She married him, loved him and had
a daughter with him. But she died astonishingly early without
warning, taking Charlie's heart --- and a basic reason for living
--- with her.

However, he still has a brand new baby, Sophie, to look after. His
fairly butch sister Jane (who keeps stealing his suits to wear) is
there to help, as are two neighbors, neither of whom the baby books
would recommend trusting for a second. Neither speaks English very
well, but they love the baby. So what if she grows up with some
strange ideas? Her dad is a little strange too; he owns a sort of
junk shop/thrift store. His employees are Ray, an ex-cop who
believes all women on the Internet are gorgeous, 21-year-old
computer scientists and want to marry him, and Lily, a Goth who
stares into the abyss (ok, usually she's staring at the dumpster
out in the alley but, you know, she's really suffering.)

The problems start when Charlie sees someone he shouldn't --- a guy
in Rachel's hospital room dressed in a mint green suit who's
supposed to be invisible to everyone. Other weird occurrences take
place. Things start glowing red, except no one notices. It might
have helped if Lily had given Charlie THE GREAT BIG BOOK OF DEATH
that had arrived in the mail, but she was so sure that it had to be
for her. It takes a while for Lily to realize that the book really
belongs to her boss, the nudnik, who seems to have this thing for
dead people.

Charlie has been given a job he doesn't want; he's now among those
responsible for peoples' souls. And those red-glowing things?
They're containers --- sometimes CDs, vases or books -- where
someone's soul moves to after death. Hey, he runs a thrift store
where there's all sorts of junk, so it's a great idea. Except there
also seems to be some horribly creepy ugly beings out to get
Charlie, and maybe Sophie. The soul vessels, at least as the
green-suited guy calls them (Mr. Fresh, whose first name is Minty,
poor thing) are his responsibility. No matter what voices he hears
(largely coming up from the sewers) or what shows up on his
doorstep (at one point, two hellhounds appear to guard Sophie), he
must do this other job while being a business owner and a father.
He has weird help, including the Emperor of San Francisco (there's
a tradition here) and some of the other folks who deal with the
dead, but it's quite a learning process.

A DIRTY JOB is a very funny, sometimes sad and occasionally
annoying book. There are too many, shall we say, sophomoric jokes
about bathroom functions and anatomy that I could have done
without. I'm a confirmed fan of Moore's work; I can forgive him a
lot because he offers readers a bookstore in San Francisco called
"Book 'em, Danno."

There is so much going on and you're never quite sure what to
expect. You just know that you wouldn't choose poor Charlie to be a
"Death Merchant," as one of them calls the "profession," but he's a
good guy; he must win and the icky sewer things have to lose,
preferably destroyed or at least sent back to where they came from
for a long time. After all, we have a little kid to raise here ---
although she's not exactly just a little kid either.


Reviewed by Andi Shechter on December 29, 2010

A Dirty Job
by Christopher Moore

  • Publication Date: April 1, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 405 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • ISBN-10: 0060590289
  • ISBN-13: 9780060590284