This is the sequel to Moore’s A Dirty job, which is a fantastic book about a beta male finding himself in the role of a Death Merchant, tasked with retrieving and protecting the souls of the dead. I read it nearly a decade ago, so it took me a little while to figure out what as going on in this sequel. I really should have glanced at a synopsis before starting, because I apparently blocked out the last quarter of that book. This lead to some happy, if unintentional, surprises, but Moore does take some time to remind the reader on the finer points of the last book. I could have used a bit more reminding, but if you aren’t me and have a moderately functional memory, it will be just fine.
This takes place about a year after the last novel. Due to varying circumstances, not all of the death merchants have been able to perform their duties over the last year, and the souls that they were meant to watch over have been disappearing. Beta male Charlie Asher, trapped inside the body of a 14-inch-tall meat figure with a giant penis, has to find a new body and figure out what to do about the rise of supernatural activity they’re witnessing in San Francisco, with the help of another death merchant Minty Fresh, ex-cop Alphonse Rivera, his former goth employee Lily, his Tibetan monk girlfriend Audrey, and The Emperor of San Francisco.
Christopher Moore is always hilarious, in a perfectly juvenile way, and this continues to be true in this novel as well. This wasn’t his strongest plot, but his characters are what really make his novels, and he has some great ones in this. I particularly enjoyed his foul-mouthed nine-year-old daughter Sophie, although she didn’t feature as much as I’d hoped. There’s just something about hearing a child swear that is fun when you aren’t a parent. His black characters were a little awkwardly blaxploitation-esque, and while he does acknowledge that in the story, it doesn’t make it any less painful to read. They really feel transparently like black characters written by a white guy, the same way his English characters feel written by an American.
The pacing of the plot also felt a little strange. The main conflict was only hinted at for the longest time, and when they finally neared the confrontation, at the very end of the novel, all of the subplots were neatly tied up. It made the story feel a little disjointed to me, like it was meandering and speeding along all at once. The climax of the novel didn’t really hit that hard, because I wasn’t as invested in that part of the story (arguably, the main part).
I bought a signed copy of this, like I did with Sacré Bleu, and my dog ate the corner of the book. It wasn’t signed in person, though, so I’m not too heartbroken. If the value of his signature suddenly sky rockets with collectors in the future, however, the price of my edition is probably going to suffer. My only hope now is for my dog to somehow become famous.
I should also add that the book cover glows in the dark, as should be the case for all fine literature, and for this I have awarded bonus points. If you can’t love a book that glows in the dark, you’re dead inside.