The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death

The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death

by Charlie Huston

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Overview

With his teaching career derailed by tragedy and his slacker days numbered, Webster Fillmore Goodhue makes an unlikely move and joins Clean Team, charged with tidying up L.A.'s grisly crime scenes. For Web, it's a steady gig, and he soon finds himself sponging a Malibu suicide's brains from a bathroom mirror and flirting with the man's bereaved and beautiful daughter.

Then things get weird: The dead man's daughter asks a favor. Every cell in Web's brain tells him to turn her down, but something makes him hit the Harbor Freeway at midnight to help her however he can. Soon enough it's Web who needs the help when gun-toting California cowboys start showing up on his doorstep. What's the deal? Is it something to do with what he cleaned up in that motel room in Carson? Or is it all about the brewing war between rival trauma cleaners? Web doesn't have a clue, but he'll need to get one if he's going to keep from getting his face kicked in. Again. And again. And again.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345501127
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/29/2009
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 520,350
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Charlie Huston is the author of The Shotgun Rule, the Henry Thompson trilogy: Caught Stealing, Six Bad Things (an Edgar Award nominee), and A Dangerous Man, and the Joe Pitt novels: Already Dead, No Dominion, Half the Blood of Brooklyn, and Every Last Drop. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, the actress Virginia Louise Smith.

www.pulpnoir.com

Read an Excerpt

I’m not sure where one should expect to find the bereaved daughter of a wealthy Malibu suicide in need of a trauma cleaner long after midnight, but safe to say a trucker motel down the 405 industrial corridor in Carson was not on my list of likely locales.

—Ouch. That looks painful.

I touched the bandage on my forehead.

—And if that’s what it feels like to look at it, imagine how it feels to actually have it happen to you.

The half of her face that I could see in the chained gap at the edge of the door nodded.

—Yeah, I’d imagine that sucks.

Cars whipped past on the highway across the parking lot, taking full advantage of the few hours in any given Los Angeles county twenty-four hour period when you might get the needle on the high side of sixty. I watched a couple of them attempting to set a new land speed record. I looked back at Soledad’s face, bisected by the door.

—So?

—Uh huh?

I hefted the plastic carrier full of cleaning supplies I’d brought from the van.

—Someone called for maid service?

—Yeah. That was me.

—I know.

She fingered the slack in the door chain, set it swinging back and forth.

—I didn’t really think you’d come.

—Well, I like to surprise.

She stopped playing with the chain.

—Terrible habit. Don’t you know most people don’t like surprises?

I looked over at the highway and watched a couple more cars.

—Can I ask a silly question?

—Sure.

I looked back at her.

—What the fuck am I doing here?

She ran a hand through her hair, let it fall back over her forehead.

—You sure you want to do this, Web?

That being the kind of question that tips most people off to a fucked up situation, I could very easily have taken it as my cue to go downstairs, get back in the van and get the hell gone. But it’s not like I hadn’t already been clued to things being fucked up when she called in the middle of the night and asked me to come to a motel to clean a room. And there I was anyway. So who was I fooling?

Exactly no one.

—Just let me in and show me the problem.

—Think you can fix it, do you?

I shook my head.

—No, probably not. But it’s cold out here. And I came all this way. She showed me half her smile, the other half hidden behind the door.

—And you’re still clinging to some hope that a girl asking you to come clean something is some kind of booty call code, right?

I rubbed the top of my head. But I didn’t say anything. Not feeling like saying no and lying to her so early in our relationship. There would be time for that kind of thing later. There’s always time for lying.

She inhaled, let it out slow.

—OK.

The door closed. I heard the chain unhook. The door opened and I walked in, my feet crunching on something hard.

—This the asshole?

I looked at the young dude standing at the bathroom door with a meticulously crafted fauxhawk. I looked at bleached teeth and handcrafted tan. I looked at the bloodstains on his designer-distressed jeans and his artfully faded reproduction Rolling Stones concert T from a show that took place well before he was conceived. Then I looked at much larger bloodstains on the sheets of the queen-size bed and the flecks of blood spattered on the wall. I looked at the floor to see what I’d crushed underfoot, half expecting cockroaches, and found dozens of scattered almonds instead. I listened as the door closed behind me and locked. I watched as Soledad walked toward the bathroom and the dude snagged her by the hand before she could go in.

—I asked, Is this the asshole.

I pointed at myself.

—Honestly, in most circumstances, in any given room on any given day, I’d say, Yeah, I’m the asshole here. But in this particular scenario, and I know we just met and all, but in this room here?

I pointed at him.

—I’m more than willing to give you the benefit of the doubt and say that you’re the asshole.

He looked at Soledad.

—So, yeah, he’s the asshole then?

She twisted her hand free and went into the bathroom.

—He’s the guy I told you about.

She closed the door behind her.

He looked at me.

—Yeah, you’re the asshole alright.

I held up a hand.

—Hey, look, if you’re gonna insist, I can only accept the title. But seriously, don’t sell yourself short. You got the asshole thing locked up if you want it. He came down the room in a loose strut I imagine had been meticulously assembled from endless repeat viewings of Tom Cruise’s greatest hits.

—Yeah, I can tell by the way you’re talking. You’re the one fucked with her today. Made jokes about her dad killing himself. You’re the asshole alright. The toilet flushed, Soledad yelled over it.

—He didn’t make jokes!

The dude looked at the closed door.

—You said he made jokes.

He looked at me.

—Asshole. Fucking go in someone’s home, there’s been a tragedy, go in and try to make money off that. Fucking vulture. Fucking ghoul. Who does that, who comes up with that for a job? That your dream job, man? Cleaning up dead people? Other kids were hoping to grow up to be movie stars and you were having fantasies about scooping people’s guts off the floor?

I shifted, crushing a few more almonds.

—Truth is, mostly I had fantasies about doing your mom.

He slipped a lozenge of perforated steel from his back pocket, flicked his wrist and thumb in an elaborate show of coordination, and displayed the open butterfly knife resting on his palm.

—Say what, asshole?

Say nothing, actually. Except say that maybe he was right and I was the asshole in the room. Certainly being an asshole was how I came to be there in the first place.

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Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 83 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Web Goodhue burned out as an inner city elementary school teacher until he finally quit. Although still suffering from what the shrinks call post-traumatic stress disorder, the former Los Angeles teacher obtains work as a member of a crime scene cleanup team. He finds cleaning away the remains of dead people easier on his brain than teaching.

He and his crew clean up a particular nasty job in Malibu where the suicide splattered blood and guts are everywhere. Soon afterward, the dead man¿s daughter Soledad calls him to ask if he would like to make some under the table loot cleaning up a mess she and her hooligan half-brother need serendipitously performed by a professional. Web agrees although he knows better than to do an unauthorized side job, but Soledad¿s voice and later her beautiful body has the mentally fatigued man hypnotized with a need to live for the first time since teaching fatigued him to the breaking point. He will soon find himself wishing he stayed in the classroom as a burned out husk.

With a nod to crime scene cleaner writers like Wendy Roberts (see A Ghost Dusters), but more a darker Noir than most, Charlie Huston provides a twisting terrific tale of betrayal. Fascinatingly, the action is muted as the players discuss what they desire and what happened. This passive approach works as the reader increasingly anticipates doom; enhancing the Noir feel to the plot. THE MYSTIC ARTS OF ERASING ALL SIGNS OF DEATH is a unique refreshing look at crime especially those who clean up the mess afterward while asking who cleans up the cleaner¿s mess.

Harriet Klausner
kal999 More than 1 year ago
This is the 9th Huston novel I've read and it does not disappoint. His books are hard as nails, tough as old boots, and the constant violence makes you imagine being shelled on the streets of Lebanon in the 70s. Yet somehow all of his stories are incredibly bracing, romantic in their own way, and make you feel a little warm and fuzzy at the end. How does he do it? I figure he is the modern day love child of my favorite dead noir authors Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. His heroes would steal a crutch from a cripple if necessary, like the Hammett's Continental Op in "The Big Knockover" yet sacrifice everything for a woman, as Chandler's Marlowe does over and over. Anyway, it's magic. So that's all I can say without going into a bunch of specifics and giving away the plot of The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death.
katbella More than 1 year ago
this book was like a train wreck that i couldn't take my eyes off of. i loved the first person narrative and have already reccomended to friends and co-workers. it was very original.
AsthmaticTree on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For me, it began strong, meandered, then ended strong. The story is, at times, contrived and some plot devices, dubious. However, the characters are charming - the loser/slacker archetype resonates with me - and so I grew to care for their peripheral-existences. Or, it could be that I developed a fiction-crush on Chev. Regardless, the story navigates the varied landscapes of Los Angeles and manages to strike-up the distinct stench of the city. It's entertaining, comedic, and sometimes saccharine-sweet, which helps to temper the descriptions of rotting flesh and blood stains. Recommended.
souleswanderer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I first picked this book up while browsing my local bookstore several months ago. The cover and title looked intriguing, and I wondered just how interesting a mystery story would be based on a character that cleaned up after all the 'official' crime-scene folks were finished. Was there a story left after the fingerprints were lifted, samples gathered, pictures taken, and the detectives were chasing down leads? I put the book down and tucked the thought away in a far corner of my brain for another day.The catchy title refused to remain hidden in the dusty attic. Maybe it was the totally opposite ended reviews bouncing between love and hate, without a lot of middle ground, or the authors I read and enjoy, recommending it. Either way, I picked the book up intending to give it a quick browse while waiting for another author to arrive at one of my favorite haunts. I found myself hooked after the three page prologue, and knowing I was going to have to purchase the book to satisfy my curiosity.Webster Fillmore Goodhue is an asshole. Or so we are reminded of that fact by everyone from customers, his employer, best friend, and even his father. Web doesn't disappoint. Our first glimpse of Charlie Huston's protagonist is portrayed as a lazy, can't-be-bothered to get off the sofa and seek employment moocher with little to no ambition. There's a small glimpse of humanity under the facade when he realizes, after breaking his best friend and roommates cell phone, that maybe he's pushed the limits of tolerance too far. He joins Team Clean, to earn a few dollars and lands in the middle of a turf war between rival cleaning teams. If that wasn't bad enough, he falls for a client and can't say no when she asks him for a favor involving her brother and a stabbing. Things quickly get muddled with a fire-bombing, kidnapping and murder as Web discovers real life is sometimes worse than a bad dream.For all the craziness that Web encounters, he's really just a regular guy coping with what life has handed to him and trying to do the right thing.I enjoyed the sarcastic and low-keyed wit played about in the dialogue. Sometimes laugh out loud funny and other times sadly pathetic, yet capturing the very real spirit of people with hope. This is not a book I would recommend if you object to an extensive and liberal use of the f-word. But if you're like me and can put the blinders on, you may find yourself liking this as much as I did.
sbenne3 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not really one of my favorites (and I tend to like darker novels). I thought the middle drug on a little too much and I got very tired of the dialogue with one of the secondary characters Jaime (I get that his character's vocabulary was very limited and largely included profanity, but really . . . . . I had had quite enough). Anyway, I was interested enough in it to finish and I enjoyed the unique writing style, but this is not one I will recommend.
irunsjh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Amazing Book. I could not put it down. I love how the author is able to get you root for the down and out guy. It appears as if all his books follow this pattern, but each one is different in it's own right, and great. I great book, with a solid recommendation from me.
Gary10 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Dialogue driven story of an LA slacker who ends up in the crime scene clean up business with a long list of unsavory characters. Underneath the hard boiled exterior there is a young man going working through a traumatic experience.
TheBoltChick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have read Charlie Huston in the past, and have really liked his stuff, so I was looking forward to this book. Unfortunately it didn't live up to my expectations.This book centers around Webster Goodhue, who (as is the author's trademark) is a damaged man. He is currently living the life of unapologetic slacker after having quit a teaching position. Needing to augment his non-existent income, he takes a part-time job cleaning crime scenes. He ends up falling for a female client, and that leads him into making very poor decisions. Things quickly start whirling out of control and he ends up mixed up in kidnapping and murder. Ultimately we are taken on Web's journey of self-discovery and healing. He matures and realizes his potential through the situations he encounters. I think one of my main difficulties in enjoying this story was the feeling that I had been there before. While the plot differs, it is still remarkably similar to other novels by the author. I understand similarities, but honestly felt that these people were the same characters. I did listen to this in audio, and in all fairness felt I would probably have enjoyed reading it in print better as the narrator's delivery seemed to be lacking in the sarcastic wit that I am accustomed to.All in all, it was an adequate book, good for some beach reading when all that is wanted is a recreational noir romp. Not recommended if you are offended by coarse language.
arouse77 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I actually enjoyed this offering a great deal. It was quirky, off-beat, suprising, and tender. The content of the tale was somewhat grisly in spots, but it didn't distract unduly from the human story being told among the remains of the day. The writing was conversational and deft, the voice of the narrator confident and confidential. The angst of a generation x wanderer well captured within a snapshot of LA which offered a glimpse around the edges of a rarely considered but essential part of the processes of human life, and death.
CurrLee33 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While I've not read other Huston novels, I found I very much liked this one. The characters felt real and I enjoyed the main character's sense of sarcasm, while harsh at times, I still found it realistic. If you are a fan of real-life crime shows, you'll probably enjoy this one.
lildrafire on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What do you do when you are as low as a person can go? If you are Charlie Huston's main character in this novel, you go to work doing one of the most disgusting, unappreciated and undesirable jobs anywhere and everywhere. You clean up after death. Murder, suicide, natural causes--doesn't matter--someone has to bag, clean, deodorize...get the picture. But Huston's novel isn't all about the gross and gory. He's woven a nice little story, leaving the reader determined to find out what's next in the plot. This is my first by this author, but I think I'll try some of his other works. Thanks, LibraryThing, for turning me on to a new author.
dvulcano on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sorry, thought I posted a review of this many many months ago. The premise is very promising and it is a good infrastructure for a very fun read. It takes a bit to get used to the style (i.e. using dashes instead of quotation marks) but that's nothing to hold against the book. The major problem is with character development. While the characters are slackers, you don't ever get the opportunity to care about them. Even not caring about them would have been a nice emotion the author just couldn't keep the characters as interesting and engaging as the plotline.
johnbsheridan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A non-series book from Charlie Huston that could easily have formed part of the Hank Thompson trilogy both stylistically and in terms of the lead character, Web, being quite similar to Hank. One quibble that applies to this and Huston's other books is that it can be difficult to keep track of the dialogue at times as it isn't attributed directly to characters. The most intriguing part of the first half of the novel is wondering about Web's back story and how he arrived in his current predicament. The career change to trauma cleaner also marks this novel out as something different from the mainstream but overall I was left wondering is that it?
meganreads on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Please forgive me the following formula, but when I think of how to explain this book to someone else here is how I would go about it: The Mystic Arts of Erasong All Signs of Death is one part Irvine Welsh, one part Chuck Palahniuk, and one part teen novel. Welsh for the absurd situations and lots of dialogue, Palahniuk for the shock value, and teen novel for the sense I got at some points that I as a reader was being pandered to (one of the first things we learn about the main characters are their respective piercings, as if we are being begged to recognize their counter-culture roots). The story is quick-moving and original; despite the fact I was annoyed at how forced some of the characters seemed I did enjoy reading this book.
jrr731 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book, I felt that the characters were well thought out, and each had a distinct personality. There have been some complaints about how the dialogue is presented, while I did find it confusing at times, I found that it added to the feel of the book. The dialogue seemed to fit Web's state of mind, a little confused and disjointed.
squeakjones on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Charlie Huston moves away from vampire pulp noir and comic book writing to return to the gut-punching crime that made his Hank Thompson crime trilogy such a great read. Web Goodhue cleans crime scenes - it's a good metaphor for his waste of a life until a run-in with a beautiful girl lands him in more and more trouble as hijacking and smuggling are just some of the things he has to try and rise above.The novel works because Huston's got a great rhythm for writing, and his hero - lazy waste that he is, never stops striving to rise above the situations he finds himself in. Although I prefer Huston's other series, this is a damn good stand-alone novel.
cabridges on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Huston has a knack for creating strange, multi-layered characters, and Web fits right in. A sleep-addicted slacker thanks to a bad childhood and traumatic adult event, he ends up joining the Clean Team and learning how to remove traces of human bits from suicides and murder victims. Expect the clinical kind of gore, by the bucketful. There's also great dialogue, a compelling plot, a mysterious girl, and enough action to keep you reading. Also, you'll want to shower afterward.
Crowyhead on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When I was reading this book, I assumed it was the author's first novel, since it had many of the hallmarks of first-novel-itis, in particular self-consciously clever dialog and a tendency to cram in as many plot elements as possible. I was surprised and disappointed to learn that Huston has actually published a number of other novels, which leads me to believe that the distracting tendencies I noticed are probably endemic.There were parts of the book that I enjoyed hugely. I liked the main character, Web, a former elementary school teacher who is mentally recovering after a horrific incident that he absolutely refuses to talk about. Instead he sleeps for hours, and hangs out in his friend's tattoo parlor, and refuses to take the bus, and gets on everyone's nerves. Eventually he wears on everyone so much that he's forced into a job working for Clean Team, a company that cleans up the worst kinds of messes. Who cleans up after someone commits suicide in the bedroom, or dies in an apartment full of trash and isn't found until weeks later? Web and his team. The problem is, Web is the kind of guy who will help a pretty girl clean up a mess she doesn't really want anyone to know about -- and that lands him in a lot of trouble.I guess I'm just not the right audience for this book, or something. I really did not care about the crime/caper aspect of the book. I wanted to read more of the parts about Web and his complicated relationships with all the people around him, and the way he gradually comes back into himself through the strange, grotesque business of cleaning up after death. Those were good, fascinating, well-written things. But instead there's the whole convoluted crime plot, a character who exists only to be gratingly stupid, and a whole mess of dialog that screams "I hope this gets optioned for a film." Really just not my cup of tea, I guess, even though usually I enjoy mysteries and crime novels.
DanaJean on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Unable to come to terms with his past, self-destructive Web Goodhue needs a job. His constant mooching, teamed with his mean-spirited, sarcastic verbal jabs, have jeopardized his one remaining friendship. In an effort to pay some debts and Band-Aid this rocky relationship, Web is forced into taking a position with a professional company that cleans crime scenes. Scenarios that include all manner of bodily fluids and the creepy crawlies that take up residence in the remnants of the dearly departed before they can be scrubbed out of carpets and hosed off walls.This is the premise of Charlie Huston's novel, THE MYSTIC ARTS OF ERASING ALL SIGNS OF DEATH. Competition,smuggling, old relationships and life-changing eye blinks intertwine in this fast unfolding tale. A wonderful use of language propelled the action along with vivid description and smart humor throughout. Unexpected twists made this an anxious but entertaining read. This was my first Charlie Huston and I found his writing to be real and honest. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. And guess what? I'm out the door tomorrow to find more!
pstotts on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
¿You might first ask how you¿re so comfortable with the dead.¿¿Charlie Huston ¿The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death¿Dying peacefully in one¿s sleep isn¿t for everyone. Some unfortunates never escape the car wrecks, chainsaw murders and pipebomb suicides that leave a hell of a mess behind. In death, a lot of slobs are born. And someone has to mop it all up. A blood and brains janitor armed with a smile, squeegee and a heaping bucket of viscera.Aunt Becky opened a vein in the tub? Call a trauma cleaner. Dad ventilated his dome with a 9mm? Call a trauma cleaner. Cousin Alfonso lost a fistfight with a chainsaw? You get the idea.And who better to give you all the nitty-gritty about trauma cleaning than the man who has put the pulp back into pulp noir. Just call Charlie Huston the master of grime fiction. Huston¿s latest novel ¿The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death¿ packs a wallop like a gut-shot and drips more menace than Pavlov¿s dog does saliva at the sound of tinkling tin. Raw, in-your-face, and unapologetic, the novel¿s a harrowing journey through a seedy L.A. underworld filled with Hollywood posers, hillbilly smugglers and warring trauma cleaning factions. Web Goodhue¿a name seemingly ripped straight from the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne¿has turned into a slacker of epic proportions after an ugly end to his teaching career. He¿s taking being a jerk to even greater heights. To get by Web mooches off his tattoo artist pal Chev, occasionally scoring some pocket change from his bitter, Hollywood-burnout father and his hippie, pie-baking mom. But when his cashflow evaporates, Web is forced to join a local trauma cleaning outfit. Everything¿s going fine until a previous client calls Web late one night looking to get a scene quietly cleaned up. Web accepts, and quickly finds himself neck-deep in the mother of all messes.The irony for Web is even though he can clean up other people¿s messes, he can¿t clean up the trauma in his own life. While a trauma cleaner can clean a scene, he can¿t erase the grief left behind. No trauma cleaner alive can Windex away a family¿s grief. That requires a healing process and ¿The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death¿ is Web¿s.Web¿s acerbic mouth and self-destructive attitude are quite similar to another of Huston¿s characters, the vampiric badboy Joe Pitt. He seems to enjoy Joe¿s zeal for being a jerk. However unlike Joe, Web has the musculature of a Muppet when it comes to backing his lip up. A reluctant hero, Web pees himself when situations get rough. He¿s your average guy who finds himself at the wrong place, wrong time and hustles to get out of the mess.If there¿s a writer with a better ear for dialogue than Charlie Huston, I want to know about them. Huston¿s a master at creating dialogue that oozes street cred. It¿s spoken word poetry that is hip, cool and dangerous. Reading Huston¿s dialogue out loud makes you sound like Harvey Keitel in Reservoir Dogs¿only cooler. The book relies heavily on dialogue¿maybe even more so than Huston¿s previous novels¿but when it¿s this good who¿s going to complain. Last Word:Huston has consistently delivered great novels, so every one of his new books is held to lofty standards. It¿s unfair to expect him to top himself every time out. ¿The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death¿ isn¿t his best work but it fits in nicely with his oeuvre. It¿s not as engaging as the Joe Pitt Casebooks, but it¿s an improvement on his previous stand-alone novel ¿The Shotgun Rule.¿ It¿s fun, fast and enjoyable and Web Goodhue is a hell of a character. Who would have known that trauma cleaning could be so much fun?
sparksphotog on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've been a fan of Charlie Huston's books for a couple of years now. So I was overjoyed to receive an advance copy of his new book The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death. It didn't disappoint. The dialogue was spot on, as usual, the pace never let up, and the book had a satisfying ending.Web is not your usual protagonist. He's hard to like. But eventually he wins you over with his sheer tenacity. I was sorry to see this book end. I want to see more of Web. But I'll be happy with the next Joe Pitt Casebook.
Hyper.Melida on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While it's taken me quite a while to review The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death, it certainly didn't take me long to read it cover to cover, and then back to some parts in-between. In retrospect it's difficult to believe I initially shunned my affection for Web, like he was some slacker boyfriend I left in college... I was pretty sure I'd outgrown his type. The unfolding of his character's true nature, or natures really, was the most wonderful ride. And the supporting cast of unique characters surrounding him makes one realize honest, true friends are your best defense.Huston's unique "dialogue grammar" consisting of dashes versus quotes, does take a bit of time to warm up to, but once one does it really is this great visual shorthand drawing the vague line between the internal and external conversation that all the books characters are dancing between.By the end of the story I do believe the reader can conclude that there are mystical arts which can erase all signs of death, but they are messy to perform, they cost you dear, and you should probably keep them to yourself.
paghababian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Web hasn't done much other than slack off for the past year or so. When his roommate and best friend gets a little tired of it, though, Web takes a job as a cleaner for a company that cleans up after people's deaths. On one of his first jobs, he hits it off with a client as he's cleaning up her father's suicide. And then the trouble starts. The client's idiotic brother, cowboys who have no problem killing one of their own, rival cleaning teams, a can of almonds, fear of taking the bus, and books full of cash only make the story more interesting.Huston's style is both funny and emotional, the dialogue is fast and witty, and the tone is overall dark humor. I found myself hurrying through the book to get more of the story, but wanting to go slower to fully take in Huston's Los Angeles and all of the strange characters. Definitely a good read.
shellyquade on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There is more reason to read Charlie Huston's The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death than that it has a good title.So long as you have a strong stomach, or at least like grossing yourself out, the book is thoroughly enjoyable. I, myself, fall in the former category, and so really liked reading this novel.The great title is derived from the occupation the protagonist, Web, finds himself executing. Due to the slothful manner in which he deals with a tragic event, after some time of unemployment, Web has some debts to pay off which result in his agreeing to help clean up crime scenes. Along the way, the apathetic narrator and protagonist meets many colorful characters with whom he becomes involved in some form, including romantic interest and physical conflict.With this novel, Huston has written something which is not found often enough: a great read. The novel reads quickly, but still makes the reader think. This book challenges the intellect without causing one's brain to hurt. There are moments when the reader may literally laugh out loud.To be honest, I wasn't prepared to like this book. It is gritty, and the dialogue is fast-paced and witty in a way that many writers can't pull off. Yet I did enjoy this book. The human interaction in this book is very real. The protagonist is a very difficult character, and has reacted to the tragedy he endured in a manner which makes him, at times, (some would say most of the time,) unlikeable. He does, however, eventually confront what has happened, and the book ends with a feeling of hope without a cliche attached.