Charlie Asher is a beta-male who runs a second hand thrift store in San Francisco which he inherited from his father. He can’t quite believe that he’s managed to snag and marry Rachel, a smart, beautiful woman, and is even more amazed to find himself the father of Sophie. Sophie’s birth, however, is tainted with tragedy when Rachel dies of post-natal complications. What’s more, Charlie can see the death merchant sent to collect her soul, which is a shock to both of them. In addition to running the store and bringing up Sophie, it seems that Charlie is destined to collect the souls of those dying and to pass them onto the soulless. However, he seems to have more powers than the other death merchants, able to actually cause death; in fact, he might not be one of death’s helpers at all, but actually Death. To make life even more interesting, dark forces are gathering beneath the city, taking their chances to snatch waylaid souls in order to grow their strength so that they might rise up and cast the world into darkness. Taking them on seems more suited to the alpha-women in his life, than his beta-male persona, but Asher is nothing if not a trier. If the world only knew what was happening it would be suing for peace.
I loved this book. It was inventive, clever, laugh-out-loud witty, and well told. The main trick to comic noir fantasy is to create a fully believable world that the reader can inhabit despite its oddities. Moore does an excellent job of this, placing the reader in the geography of San Francisco, the world of Charlie Asher and the ‘death merchants’, and the underworld of the Morrigan. The contextualisation concerning beta-males and soul collecting is nicely woven into the narrative. The characterisation, in particular, was very nicely done with each character well-penned, distinct and fully fleshed out. The plot is well developed and engaging, tugging the reader relentlessly along, although the timing element was sometimes a little clunky in the transitions as the story jumped forward a year or more at a time. The mark of a really good book is that you’re disappointed when it ends. I was quite miffed when I turned the last page of A Dirty Job - the story had come to its natural end, but I was definitely left wanting more. The book is already on its way to my nephew, who I know will love it, and Moore’s other books are firmly on my radar. Expect a review of another of his stories by the end of the year.