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The Mystic Arts Of Erasing All Signs Of Death by Charlie Huston

01/08/2009. Contributed by Sue Davies

Buy The Mystic Arts Of Erasing All Signs Of Death in the USA - or Buy The Mystic Arts Of Erasing All Signs Of Death in the UK

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pub: Ballantine Books. 319 page enlarged paperback. Price: $25.00 (US), $28.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-345-50111-0.

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Charlie Huston, the author of the Joe Pitt novels, has produced another tale which links straight into the zeitgeist and cleans itself up afterwards. For some curious reason the-must-have subject, be it in novels or screenplays (see 'The Sunshine Cleaning Company'), is the mysterious art of crime-scene cleaning. Caution: those of a weak disposition might want to leave now.

Webster Filmore Goodhue otherwise called Web is a bum (English definition: waster, couch potato, lazy git) but his friends remember him as something different and still care about him despite his efforts to alienate them.

Offered the chance of real shit-work he doesn't actually jump at it but does manage to turn up. He owes money everywhere in particular to his flatmate and to his Mum who has grown rich on apple pies and cannabis. Unfortunately, she has partaken a little too well of the weed and tends to be on the spaced-out side of life. So Web decides it really is pay-back time and takes up friend of a friend Po Sin's offer of work, cleaning out crime scenes. It's grim but he feels this is what he deserves. We just don't know why he has reached this low point in his life.

It's not long before the work takes over. Web is office-sitting for the boss when he takes a call from a recent, pretty, client and soon finds himself up to his neck in more than shit.

Huston's novels are always very dialogue intense and his strength is defining the speaker's voice so well that the reader never loses track. He also avoids the awful 'he said', 'she said' trap. It's absolutely spot-on and true to life.

In the course of the novel we take a journey, a ride if you like, with Web to clean up the mess of his life. He creates a great sense of place and vivid characters that are worthwhile investing your time in. It might reek but you can always wear a mask, it'll be worth it.

Sue Davies

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