First of all, an apology. I wrote this review ages ago and it has been stuck in Draft mode. I'm really annoyed about that because it's a book I've been telling friends to go out and buy right away! Luckily, it's not too late...
Web Goodhue is a jerk. He's down to his last friend, he's got no job, he sleeps all day and he is going nowhere. At least, that's what you see on the surface. There's a lot more to Web than you see at first glance - a lot of good in him, and a lot of hurt. When his best (only) friend Chev insists he take a job with their buddy Po Sin, Web doesn't have much choice and he's too tired to argue about it.
That's how Web ends up cleaning crime scenes. It's a gruesome job, but it has its own brand of humor. (Really, any job like that - crime scene cleanup, paramedics, embalmers, cops - you've got to have a sense of humor just to survive.) Web's better nature gets him sucked into the maelstrom, all to save the pretty girl.
The relationship between Web and Chev is the best part - if not the funniest part - of this book. On the surface, they're a couple of slackers, hanging out together and scrounging a living; dig a little deeper and there's a lot going on. Their lives have been intertwined since they were kids and it has brought them lifelong friendship, great joy and great tragedy. The reveal is very skillful - layer by layer, we get to see a little more of Web and what's happened to bring him to this point. By the end of the book he is a long way from the unemployed slacker we start out with.
The story is one wild ride - there are smugglers and tattoo artists and The Guild and blood and gore and sex and more. It was really, really funny (in a dark and morbid sort of way) and I genuinely liked Web and Chev, Gabe and Po Sin, and the crazy people they come up against. Mystic Arts had me rooting for Web and I was not disappointed. A great ride and a fun finish.
According to Wikipedia, Web's character will be further developed in future books. That's great news, because I loved Web and Chev, and I really want to see what happens to Web and what becomes of their friendship.
It's always a revelation to me when I read a book by an author who is new to me, only to find out there is a stack of older works out there that I need to get my hands on! Charlie Huston is the author of a number of books I am looking forward to reading: the Hank Thompson series (Caught Stealing, Six Bad Things, A Dangerous Man) and the Joe Pitt series (Already Dead, No Dominion, Half the Blood of Brooklyn, Every Last Drop and My Dead Body), among other books. You can also check out his blog, PulpNoir.com.
My copy of The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death was an Advanced Reader Edition; order yours at Amazon.com.