Sunday, 24 June 2007

‘A Dirty Job’ – Christopher Moore (Orbit Books)

Charlie Asher is the classic beta-male, low on charisma but making up for this with high levels of imagination and paranoia. Despite this, Charlie is still unprepared for the tragic yet strangely surreal circumstances that leave him bringing up his daughter on his own. The weirdness doesn’t stop there though. Who was the ghostly figure in the hospital? Why is Charlie suddenly getting abuse hurled at him from storm drains? Why are people’s names suddenly appearing on his nightstand notepad (and why are these people suddenly dying)? Charlie has been unwittingly recruited into the world’s oldest profession (Not that one, one that’s even older…), it’s a dirty job but one that he has to do…
I’ve read a short collection of extracts from Christopher Moore’s works, they weren’t as funny as I’d been told they were but they were engaging and made me want to read more. This is pretty much what you get with ‘A Dirty Job’. There were some moments that made me chuckle (Charlie throwing fireworks down the drain) but the humour wasn’t on the level of Pratchett’s wordplay or Rankin’s downright weirdness. What you do get though is a group of engaging characters being put through their paces in a plot that caught my sense of the strange and would not let me go. There are also references to characters and goings on, in Moore’s San Francisco, which lend the story some context and made me interested in finding out more.
What we end up with though is a book that promises one thing, doesn’t really deliver it but ends up delivering something else pretty well. It kept my attention but for all the wrong reasons. My other big problem was the front cover; it’s not often I say this but the cover picture manages to give away a pretty big plot device. It’s also inconsistent with the blurb on the back. I managed to work out what was going on before I even started reading, sometimes this isn’t a bad thing (if you like to know what you’re getting) but on this occasion it lent the story a real sense of anti-climax.
If you’ve enjoyed Christopher Moore’s other works you’ll be getting more of the same with this and you won’t be disappointed. Anyone picking this up for the first time may end up asking themselves what the fuss is all about.
Not a bad book but needs to be clearer about what it’s trying to deliver.

Five out of Ten.

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