Publisher: William Morrow & Company
Series: Grim Reaper #1
Charlie Asher is a pretty normal guy. A little hapless, somewhat neurotic, sort of a hypochondriac. He's what's known as a Beta Male: the kind of fellow who makes his way through life by being careful and constant -- you know, the one who's always there to pick up the pieces when the girl gets dumped by the bigger/taller/stronger Alpha Male.
But Charlie's been lucky. He owns a building in the heart of San Francisco, and runs a secondhand store with the help of a couple of loyal, if marginally insane, employees. He's married to a bright and pretty woman who actually loves him for his normalcy. And she, Rachel, is about to have their first child.
Yes, Charlie's doing okay for a Beta. That is, until the day his daughter, Sophie, is born. Just as Charlie -- exhausted from the birth -- turns to go home, he sees a strange man in mint-green golf wear at Rachel's hospital bedside, a man who claims that no one should be able to see him. But see him Charlie does, and from here on out, things get really weird. . . .
People start dropping dead around him, giant ravens perch on his building, and it seems that everywhere he goes, a dark presence whispers to him from under the streets. Strange names start appearing on his nightstand notepad, and before he knows it, those people end up dead, too. Yup, it seems that Charlie Asher has been recruited for a new job, an unpleasant but utterly necessary one: Death. It's a dirty job. But hey, somebody's gotta do it.
Christopher Moore, the man whose Lamb served up Jesus' "missing years" (with the funny parts left in), and whose Fluke found the deep humor in whale researchers' lives, now shines his comic light on the undiscovered country we all eventually explore -- death and dying -- and the results are hilarious, heartwarming, and a hell of a lot of fun.
We start out with Charlie Asher, who is a bit of a paranoid meek man at first. He's given this rather odd new job as a Death Merchant, where he collects the vessels where souls reside after we die. It can be anything from a pin cushion, or a book etc. For Charlie, they glow red. There are several ways this new job can go wrong, and wrong they do go.
The characters were fun to read, though when I stopped to think about it, they all seemed to have the same sense of humor, which varied in degrees between each person and suited the situation rather than the character themselves. In that, I almost saw them all as basically the author, telling a story under different names instead of the individuals they were meant to be. That being said, they were all very funny. The primary way to express themselves was dialogue, which could get excessive at times, but I had a few laugh out loud moments at their antics. That, and the hell hounds are awesome.
Death and humor often go hand in hand, as crude as that can be when you think about it. But in high stress, it's a release, and I think the author was able to balance the sadness and the humor of being death quite well.
The book also seemed like a giant advertisement for beta males. I don't know why, but it was a theme that ran throughout and explained why Charlie, or any of the other beta's (which I think, is all of them) do what they do. It was a different approach, and sometimes entertaining unless it was a pivotal scene, then I grew a bit annoyed with it.
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Something really strange is happening in the City by the Bay. People are dying, but their souls are not being collected. Someone—or something—is stealing them and no one knows where they are going, or why, but it has something to do with that big orange bridge. Death Merchant Charlie Asher is just as flummoxed as everyone else. He's trapped in the body of a fourteen-inch-tall "meat" waiting for his Buddhist nun girlfriend, Audrey, to find him a suitable new body to play host.