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Book Review: The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Huston

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I started reading Charlie Huston with his Joe Pitt, Vampire P.I. series that takes place in a dark, gritty, noir New York that swarms with vampire factions and other creatures of the night. I was immediately drawn in by the stubborn independent main character and the extremely complex web of social/political vampire factions (including a group of Chasidic Jewish vampires in Brooklyn who only drink Kosher blood) that Pitt weaves through as he finds killers and solves mysterious murders within the infected community.

Hubby also loved this series and he went further to read Huston's other crime novels. So we were both very excited to read the brand new novel of brand new Huston characters, The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death. First we meet Web, aka Webster Fillmore Goodhue, a former teacher who retired after a student was shot while he tried to protect her and died in his arms. Since the tragic event he has not been able to hold down a job or find interest in much of anything, preferring to live with his good friend Chev, owner of a dive tattoo parlor.

Enter Chev's friend Po Sin, owner of the Clean Team who picks up the used needles and hazardous waste. Not just any old house and office cleaning service, this is more like Harvey Keitel's character in Pulp Fiction, a cleaner who gets rid of the murder mess, who understands how to get blood and brains out of a white carpet and liver splatter out of the curtains. Web's first job involves cleaning up small baggies of shit, and the second involves cleaning up brain and blood splatter from a suicide shot in the head. I won't even mention some of the later scenes, such as what happens when someone dies with a pipe bomb up his ass.

Strangely enough Web loves this work and finds that it helps calm and soothe his fractured mind. But nothing is simple. The Cleaning industry is rife with murderous competition, and Web ends up falling in love with daughter of the guy who blew his brains out, which leads to his involvement in a larger web of criminals.

Gory, gritty, funny, sick, disturbing, interesting… all of these describe The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death (like a bad train wreck). While a bit too slow and complex at the beginning, this book grew on me as the pace picked up, and I would definitely read a second book in this series.

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