Charlie Asher is a classic beta male done good. He owns a moderately successful second-hand store has a wife who is a few degrees out of his league and a baby on the way. Everything changes after the birth of his daughter. His wife's health takes a turn for the worse and as she is dying, Charlie sees a man in a mint green suit stealing her favorite cd from her hospital room. Unfortunately, no one else, including the security cameras can see this man. A short time later Charlie receives a mysterious book in the mail with a first chapter entitled “So Now You're Death...” – or at least he would have received it if the teenage goth girl who works for him didn't think it was the coolest book ever and steal it for herself. It turns out Charlie has been chosen to become a Death Merchant, an emissary who collects the souls of the dead via their most treasured material possession. However, there are some ancient demons, reawakened and living in the sewers who are trying to use Charlie's mistakes to bring about a new age of death on earth.
There's a lot to like about Christopher Moore's book "A Dirty Job". It tells an epic story of good vs evil, but it still feels very intimate and small-scale as Charlie struggles to prevent the end of the world while still mourning his wife and coping as a single father. It's easy to get behind the book's good-natured championing of the underdogs, misfits and eccentrics of the world. It's also, like most of Christopher Moore's books, very funny. Moore's created a world not unlike Kevin Smith's “Askewniverse” where major and minor characters from past books might pop up for a cameo appearance that those unfamiliar with the books might never notice.
The story gets a little jumbled and frantic towards the end as two giant Ghostbusters-esque, toaster-eating hellhounds show up to protect Charlie's young daughter, who has the curious ability to kill people and animals simply by pointing at them and saying “Kitty!”, and some strange creatures made out of parts of lizards, birds, and squirrels dressed in pint-sized period costumes make an appearance. By the time a mystical Buddhist girl with the power to reanimate the dead shows up you have to just shrug your shoulders and go along for the ride. At least it's a fun ride. Any reader with a heart and a sick sense of humor will probably appreciate a book that can get laughs out of a scene of feathered demons playing hand puppets with decapitated human heads and then go on to tell a heartfelt story of a single father caring for his daughter.