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January 24, 2010 / C.T. Henry

REVIEW: Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Huston

One of today’s hottest, young writers, Charlie Huston has done it again.  As the author of the highly acclaimed Hank Thompson trilogy, the Joe Pitt series, and The Shotgun Rule, he’s written another hit with Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death.  While Huston’s writing style is witty and sometimes caustic, he’s definitely stretched his writing muscles with Mystic Arts, and the result is a captivating tale.  Just recently, Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Novel.  The winner will be chosen in April.

Webster Goodhue’s life is a mess.  A total loser, Web has an extraordinary talent for offending everyone around him, including his friends.  When he agrees to take a job cleaning crime scenes, he finds it intriguing work.  Death agrees with him.  However, he finds himself in the middle of a trade war and a smuggling operation.  Although not very heroic, Web uses his intellect to navigate these treacherous waters and attempts to deal with his own tragic past.

Huston’s writing style and dark humor isn’t for everyone.  It’s an acquired taste, like fine wine.  With plenty of colorful language and gruesome descriptions of death scenes, Huston gives the story a realism that might offend some readers.  Nevertheless, there is beauty in his writing and his characters, who are trying to find their way in the world.  Most of all, you come to realize why Webb acts the way he does.  The chapter where Web meets his alcoholic father in a seedy bar is one of the best pieces of writing that I have ever read.

If you have a morbid sense of humor, like I do, you’ll love Mystic Arts.

Verdict: HOLY COW BATMAN! (Translation: Highly Recommended!)

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