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Saturday, August 8, 2009

What I'm Reading: The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death

Before I saw Charlie Huston at ALA, I read one of his new, non-Joe Pitt titles, The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death.

This is a novel about Web, a basically good guy who has survived a terrible tragedy and has not been able to pull out of his post-traumatic stress funk. Web has no job and has alienated all but one close friend. In an attempt to help Web get back on his feet, an acquaintance, Po Sin, offers Web a spot on his "clean team," cleaning up crime scenes. We are talking brain matter and body fluids here. Web finds the job satisfying, but gets wrapped up in a smuggling ring and a turf war between cleaners. Serious danger ensues.

Like all Huston novels this is a true hard-boiled suspense story with lots of action, blood and guts, and vulgar language. There are also great characters here. Huston's story may move fast, but he finds time to fully draw out each and every character. Also, this novel has tons of laugh out loud moments. Even in the middle of room splattered with brain matter, there is humor. One good things about Huston is that his style is pretty consistent from book to book.

Again, I do want to stress there is a lot of violence and bad language here, so if you are concerned, open the book to any page and read about 5 pages to see if it is your cup of tea or not. Trust me, at least every 5 pages there is something that will test whether or not this book is okay for you. Personally, I loved it, but I can easily see where this is not the book for every reader.

This is only Huston's second stand alone novel, but with the Joe Pitt Vampyre series ending this fall, and with all of the character development and back story in this novel, I would bet (and hope) that Huston will want to revisit Web again real soon.

Readalikes: There are a lot of authors who write like Huston. First, and most obviously is Chuck Palahniuk, although it should be mentioned that Palahniuk may be more graphic than Huston at times. Jonathan Maberry's brand new series hero Joe Ledger would get along very well with Web. Finally, a more traditional author who will appeal to fans of this novel (and who Huston likes too suggest to his readers) would be James Lee Burke.

For nonfiction, although Chuck Klosterman does not write about crime scene clean-ups, fans of his works will find a similar tone and writing style to Huston's.

If you want to learn more about post-traumatic stress disorder or crime scene clean-up, you could also use the provided links.

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