Even for someone who works at a library, Christopher Moore books stand out on the shelf. Their funky fonts and bright colors beckon you to at least take a second glance. But it wasn’t until a few different people recommended his books that I decided to take the plunge.
And so, of course, I grabbed the most demure looking of his volumes on our shelf, A Dirty Job, a simple black cover with red/pink letters. And that picture of the baby carriage with a lovely baby skeleton on the front.
I didn’t really know what I was getting into, but I was told to expect to laugh. And I can safely say that I definitely did that. A Dirty Job refers to the old adage “It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.” In the novel, the job is being Death. And it falls on constant trauma victim (and new father) Charlie Asher to take on the job. Training is nearly non-existent, especially when his manual is co-opted by Lily, a young goth employee of Asher’s secondhand store, who sees the volume as an appropriately macabre addition to her backpack.
The story itself is quite the stretch, but purposefully so. Charlie battles, then accepts, then embraces his role as a Death Merchant. Along the way, he encounters honest-to-goodness demons, the Emperor of San Francisco (a rather erudite hobo), a fellow death merchant named Minty Fresh, a pair of the most interesting canines I’ve encountered in cinema, and some very interesting creatures that could have come straight from the early years of Dr. Frankenstein. And all the while, he has to teach his daughter not to point and shout “Kitty!” at anything, because that tends to lead to sudden death.
Overall, this was a very fun and enjoyable book. I laughed out loud much more than I usually do, even with a humorous book. There are times when Moore’s propensity for levity falls flat, but more often than not the jokes remain amusing and largely original. Most importantly, the tone lends a necessary air of whimsy to what could be a rather dark premise – and the story maintains a strong forward pace even in the face of the laughter.
I recommend this book with one caveat: Moore is not shy about using adult language and including a few adult situations. If you would prefer something more wholesome, I would point you toward something different. But if bawdy humor doesn’t bother you, this is definitely a worthwhile choice.