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Literature / A Dirty Job

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A novel by Christopher Moore, published in 2006. It deals with Death, Psychopomps and loss.

Meet Charlie Asher, content and loving husband and owner of a thrift store in San Francisco. This all changes when his pregnant wife dies after giving birth to their first and only child, Sophie. After her death Charlie finds that things are just not the same. For starters, objects from his shop start to glow, he starts getting attacked by giant ravens and people start dropping dead all around him.

A man in a mint-green suit contacts Charlie and tells him that this is all happening because he is a Death Merchant, a sort of Grim Reaper tasked with saving souls from the Forces of Darkness.

Has a sequel, entitled Secondhand Souls.

This novel provides examples of:

  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: As the creatures of the underworld are starting to move:
    "And there were hundreds of singular events experienced by individuals: creatures moving in the shadows, voices and screams from the sewer grates, milk souring, cats scratching owners, dogs howling, and a thousand people woke up to find that they no longer cared for the taste of chocolate."
  • Badass Boast: When Charlie snatches an eggplant away from an old Chinese woman. She gives him a look which he interprets thusly:
    "O White Devil, you do not want to purloin that purple fruit, for I have four thousand years of ancestors and civilization on you; my grandparents built the railroads and dug the silver mines, and my parents survived the earthquake, the fire, and a society that outlawed even being Chinese; I am mother to a dozen, grandmother to a hundred, and great-grandmother to a legion; I have birthed babies and washed the dead; I am history and suffering and wisdom; I am a Buddha and a dragon; so get your fucking hand off my eggplant before you lose it."
  • Cassandra Truth: Charlie tells the hospital security about the "black man in the green suit" and they give him drugs to help him cope with his grief and hallucinations.
  • Canon Welding:
  • The Chosen Many: Death Merchants. With an emphasis on the "s".
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Bab'd
  • Death by Childbirth: Rachel.
  • Disposable Woman: Rachel gets maybe about eight lines before she kicks the bucket.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Anton blasting the hell out of the Morrigan with a cluster of claymore mines.
  • Epigraph: Moore quotes The Epic of Gilgamesh at the start of the novel.
  • Enfant Terrible: Subverted with Sophie who despite being the incarnation of Death is really quite sweet.
  • Expy: Charlie, of Tommy Flood from Bloodsucking Fiends. In the third book of the Bloodsucking Fiends series, Jody lampshades the many, many similarities between Charlie Asher and Tommy Flood.
    • In the 19th century, there was a man living in San Francisco who proclaimed himself to be the emperor of the United States [1] and garnered much support from the local population. He was often accompanied by two stray dogs named Lazarus and Bummer.
  • Extreme Omnivore: The hellhounds can eat propane tanks, and burp flames when they do. Soap makes them burp bubbles, and they like to lick insecticide. Blenders and engine blocks go down pretty easy, too.
    • In Secondhand Souls, they take down and nom up an entire Subaru, and the kayaks and assorted other shit inside for good measure!
  • Fetish Retardant: In-universe example. Charlie once said "Who's your Daddy?" to Rachel during sex, and she responded with "Saul Goldstein". This response made Charlie impotent for an entire week.
  • Friend in the Black Market: Charlie knows Three-Fingered Hu, an elderly Chinese man who's the go-to for illegal fireworks.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The Scary Black Man in the Mint Green suit? His name is Minty Fresh. He even spent most of Coyote Blue being refered to as M.F. Also, there's a website called Ukranian Girls Loving You.
  • Gag Penis: The Epilogue
    Squirrel person Charlie: Wow, would you look at that.
  • Hellhound: Two of them are tasked with guarding a little girl who happens to be Death. Their names are Mohammad and Alvin.
  • Hospital Hottie: The nurse handling Sophie has a highly visible tattoo on her calf.
  • Invisible to Normals: Any Death Merchant, but only while collecting a soul. They don't show up on security tapes either.
  • Literary Allusion Title: The first chapter is a reference to an Emily Dickinson poem.
  • Mad Libs Catchphrase: Bab'd has one for every time she gets hurt by something.
    Bab'd: Well [Modern invention]s suck, I can tell you that.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: The Squirrel People.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore
  • Physical God: The Morrigan and Orcus both qualify.
  • Please Wake Up: Averted in wherein Charlie's daughter Sophie cries and tells him not to go when he leaves to fight the Morrigan but after it is finally officially revealed that she is the Luminatus (aka Big Death) simply says "Goodbye, Daddy" as Charlie passes on. Most. Tearjerking. Scene. Ever. He got better. Kind of.
  • Psychopomp: Charlie and Minty Fresh.
  • Quirky Miniboss Squad: The Morrigan.
  • Scary Black Man: Minty Fresh.
  • Sick and Wrong: Charlie walks in on one of his employees and one of his former employees (the first a middle-aged retired and paranoid cop, the latter a twenty something goth girl who had worked there since her teens) shagging in the thrift store he owns. This trope is his reaction.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: The "Beta Male" theory is explained in detail by Christopher Moore. It boils down to the observation that the nice-but-average guys who make up most of the population win in the end after girls get kicked to the curb one time too many by the Jerk Jock and cutthroat businessman.
  • Shout-Out: Plenty. For one, Charlie goes to meet an old Chinese man named Three Fingered Hu. His grandaughter is named Cindy Lou Hu.
  • Words Can Break My Bones: And the word "Kitty" can kill you.