Have I mentioned that I have a truly warped sense of humor? Nothing is sacred to me when it comes in the form of a joke - not life, nor religion, nor death. And trust me, not one of those three topics gets short shrift in this book (I'd give it 4.5 stars if that were possible).
Because I enjoy the dark side of funny, it stands to reason I love Christopher Moore's books. Back when I read Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal, I giggled so hard and so often that I had to move away from my usual reading spot lest I further annoy a husband who was trying his best to read a book of his own. This time, my intent was to read Moore's latest, Secondhand Souls; but a good friend and fellow Moore fan advised me to read this one first and I paid attention.
The whole thing begins as Charlie Asher is enjoying his life with a beautiful wife and infant daughter. But suddenly, everything goes to hell in a handbasket - somewhat literally. People begin to drop dead, and he "sees" people and things no one else does. Soon, he learns he's become a designated Death Merchant - a person charged with collecting the souls of the dying, keeping them away from the Forces of Darkness that threaten to take over the world so Charlie can transfer them to the bodies of other living folks. It's a dirty job, as his Death Merchant instruction book (and the title of this book) say, but somebody's got to do it. Actually, Charlie is a natural for the job; as a Beta Male, he's described as leaning toward timidity and paranoia - both tendencies quite evident at least in the early parts of the book - but on the other hand, he'll "never be a bug splattered on the smoky windscreen of dull imagination."
The book follows Charlie as he tries to better understand and deal with his rather bizarre fate. Sometimes, he's called upon to explain his strange actions (not to mention his daughter Sophie's suddenly acquired pair of humongous black bodyguard dogs and his every-so-often sightings of shadowy "beings" that pop up from the San Francisco sewer system). Like everything else, those explanations are served with a big dose of humor:
"So, from what you guys are saying, there are thousands of humans walking around without souls?" a lady friend asked.
"Millions, probably," Charlie replied.
"Maybe that explains the last election," was her retort.
Ah yes, definitely my kind of book.
A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore (William Morrow, reprint edition, October 2009); 400 pp.