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Charlie Asher is your average Beta Male. He owns a second-hand shop in San Francisco and rents out the apartments in the rest of the building to some kooky tenants. He has somehow managed to win the heart of beautiful Rachel and she has just given birth to their daughter Sophie when the book begins. Charlie can’t believe his luck, and, with typical Beta Male imagination, believes that Sophie has eleven toes or a tail or something–good things just don’t happen for Beta Males. After Sophie’s birth, weird things start to happen to Charlie. People drop dead in front of him, objects glow with an eerie red light, and he hears evil voices coming from the sewer drains. Enter Mr. Minty Fresh. He explains what is going on to Charlie. Basically, they are Death Merchants. They collect objects from the dead and dying that are imbued with the dead person’s soul. Then they hold onto the object until the soul’s next owner comes along and buys it. If they screw up, or if they have contact with other Death Merchants, the Forces of Darkness will rise and the World As We Know It will end. No pressure.
I think I had laughed out loud four times in the first four pages of this book. Moore’s sense of humor is a perfect match for mine. I’ve been trying to think of the word to describe it. Not exactly crass or crude, it’s more like the not-exactly-for-polite-company jokes that you make with your best friends and maybe even your family, but you probably wouldn’t say in front of your in-laws or your boss. I had a few “I can’t believe he had the nerve to write that!” moments in some of the funnier parts. Here are a couple of my favorite quotes:
“‘There’s no g*****n tail , you doofus! Look!’ She pulled down the blanket and aimed baby Sophie’s bottom at him like she might unleash a fusillade of weapons-grade poopage such as the guileless Beta Male had never seen.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Charlie, people love the parents who beat their kids in department stores. It’s the ones who just let their kids wreak havoc that everybody hates.”
While the book was definitely an irreverent comedy, there were some very nice parts where Charlie is reflecting on death and loved ones. Probably one of the nicest passages was about hospice workers, calling them “benevolent Valkyries, midwives of the final light.” These nicer parts are few and far between, but it was nice to have them in there.
The characters are all quirky but loveable and you just can’t help rooting for Charlie as he comes to terms with fatherhood and his new status as a Death Merchant. Charlie’s employees and tenants provide a comedic sideshow that I loved.
The plot is so different that I never had much of an idea where Moore was going with this. And I mean that in a good way. I like well-written unpredictable books and this fit into that category.
The humor isn’t for everyone, but if it sounds like your brand of humor, read this one. It’s a lot of fun.
Reviewed July 2008
I have to say that this was the first Christopher Moore book that I read and it’s still my favorite. My husband read it last year and now we have all kinds of “inside” jokes from it. It’s funny to see the look on my sister and her boyfriend’s faces when we both mutter “Strong like bear” in heavy Russian accents and then collapse into gales of laughter!
Read an excerpt.
Find author Christopher Moore on his website, his blog, Facebook, and Twitter. (And may I say, thank goodness for authors who have all their links up front and in your face? Seriously. Authors, don’t make us work to find you.)
Friday Flashback Reviews are a weekly feature here on The Introverted Reader. These are old reviews I wrote on GoodReads. Thanks to Angieville and her Retro Friday Reviews for the inspiration and encouragement!