Bizarre. That’s the word I would use to describe this book. It’s about Charlie Asher, a so-called “Beta Male.” Like all Beta Males, Charlie is a sweet, shy, somewhat awkward guy who worries more than he should. Charlie is the sort of guy who only eats yellow mustard. It’s plenty spicy and dangerous enough for him. That’s how Moore describes Charlie. Seriously.
When Charlie’s wife dies, he becomes a “Death Merchant,” a sort of deputy to Death who collects soul vessels from people who have died and keeps them out of the hands of the sewer harpies (nasty things that want to take over the world). And it goes on from there, with Charlie having one misadventure after another as a Death Merchant while trying to raise his infant daughter by himself.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started A Dirty Job, and I don’t quite know how to describe it without spoiling the whole book. I suppose the best thing to say is that Moore is like Terry Pratchett — on drugs.
The book starts out pretty slowly, but picks up speed after Charlie realizes what he’s become. One thing that bothered me was the lack of a timeline. It seems like whole months and years pass in the space of a few chapters. The only way I could tell how long Charlie had been a Death Merchant was by keeping track of how old his daughter was.
The book really falls apart in the third act, which goes from bizarre to just crazy and rather icky in places. It’s like Moore felt he had to go even farther over the top than he already had. Speaking as someone who writes over the top, it was a little too much for even me to swallow. He also throws in a character at the very end that I don’t think he really needed.
I enjoyed Moore’s breezy writing style, and he really knows how to describe characters and settings in fun, original ways (like the mustard description). There’s a great bit near the end where he describes a car (I think it’s a Cadillac) as a death machine. Priceless.
But the book really didn’t satisfy me in the end because the big showdown was so ridiculous and drawn out.
So, no thumbs up, thumbs down. I have to give A Dirty Job a split decision just because I don’t know if I would read another book by Moore after this one.
Up next: Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman.