If The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death were a movie instead of a book, it would probably be another bad Jason Statham movie.
Just like the cheesy action flicks, Charlie Huston tries too hard to be hip and badass.
At first the dialogue-driven prose is disorienting, because Huston uses hyphenation rather than more traditional quotation marks to distinguish speakers. However, after a few pages it’s easy to follow the seemingly endless stream of small talk.
Banter is enjoyable when it’s clever, but Huston fails to deliver an innovative exchange. The characters insult and cuss at each other until it quickly becomes both repetitive and predictable. It’s the same old mindless exchange of testosterone-charged males calling each other “dick” and “asshole” between gay jokes and beating each other up.
The narrator, Webster Fillmore Goodhue, quit being an elementary school teacher after a traumatic event. He languishes around his best friend’s tattoo parlor until an acquaintance comes and offers him a new job. Then, the gross-out fest begins.
Web’s new job involves cleaning up all signs of corpses. Graphic, unnecessary detail is given about the piss, blood, shit and brain matter that he cleans up. There’s apparently nothing mystic about erasing all signs of death, despite the title’s suggestion.
About this time the loosely spun plot begins to unravel. Boy meets girl. Boy gets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy has to rescue girl from kidnappers. Huston adds nothing refreshing to this tired story arc.
Crime fiction ought to contain some mystery or some other element that keeps the reader engaged. This book possesses neither.
Several times Web refers to how different elements of the story were from a movie, like holding a gun. When authors blatantly reference the falseness of other works of fiction it never fails to serve as a reminder of the improbability of their own work.
Recently, several authors have penned stereotypical mother characters that live in Oregon and, unfortunately, Huston is no exception. The mother is always a hippie who loves her child but is too high to know what’s really going on with her offspring.
Here, she’s a yoga-loving, organic-eating woman who’s perpetually lost in dreamland. A message should be sent to all authors: Find a new cliché, this one is already passé.
Stephen King wrote raves about The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death on Amazon.com. However, it’s difficult to trust a reviewer whose name appears on page 88 of the book he is evaluating.
Huston has also written the Hank Thompson trilogy, also crime fiction, and the Joe Pitt Series, which center around a vampire protagonist. For Marvel Comics he wrote Moon Knight as well as special annual issues of The Ultimates and X-Force.
If you’re wanting a dark, suspenseful novel that will keep you turning the pages late at night to find out what happens in the end, The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death is sorely disappointing.