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The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death

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With a style that is razor sharp, an eye that never shies from the gritty details, and a taste for stories that simultaneously shock, disturb, and entertain, Charlie Huston is one of a kind. And The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death is the type of story–swift, twisted, hilarious, somehow hopeful—that only he could dream up. The fact is, whether it’s a dog hit by a t With a style that is razor sharp, an eye that never shies from the gritty details, and a taste for stories that simultaneously shock, disturb, and entertain, Charlie Huston is one of a kind. And The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death is the type of story–swift, twisted, hilarious, somehow hopeful—that only he could dream up. The fact is, whether it’s a dog hit by a train or an old lady who had a heart attack on the can, someone has to clean up the nasty mess. And that someone is Webster Fillmore Goodhue, who just may be the least likely person in Los Angeles County to hold down such a gig. With his teaching career derailed by tragedy, Web hasn’t done much for the last year except some heavy slacking. But when his only friend in the world lets him know that his freeloading days are over, and he tires of taking cash from his spaced-out mom and refuses to take any more from his embittered father, Web joins Clean Team—and soon finds himself sponging a Malibu suicide’s brains from a bathroom mirror, and flirting with the man’s bereaved and beautiful daughter. Then things get weird: The dead man’s daughter asks a favor. Her brother’s in need of somebody who can clean up a mess. Every cell in Web’s brain tells him to turn her down, but something else makes him hit the Harbor Freeway at midnight to help her however he can. Is it her laugh? Her desperate tone of voice? The chance that this might be history’s strangest booty call? Whatever it is, soon enough it’s Web who needs the help when gun-toting California cowboys start showing up on his doorstep. What’s the deal? Is it something to do with what he cleaned up in that motel room in Carson? Or is it all about the brewing war between rival trauma cleaners? Web doesn’t have a clue, but he’ll need to get one if he’s going to keep from getting his face kicked in. Again. And again. And again. Full of black humor, stunning violence, singular characters, and neon dialogue, The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death is classic Charlie Huston: a wild ride that’ll leave you breathless and shaken, grinning and begging for more.


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With a style that is razor sharp, an eye that never shies from the gritty details, and a taste for stories that simultaneously shock, disturb, and entertain, Charlie Huston is one of a kind. And The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death is the type of story–swift, twisted, hilarious, somehow hopeful—that only he could dream up. The fact is, whether it’s a dog hit by a t With a style that is razor sharp, an eye that never shies from the gritty details, and a taste for stories that simultaneously shock, disturb, and entertain, Charlie Huston is one of a kind. And The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death is the type of story–swift, twisted, hilarious, somehow hopeful—that only he could dream up. The fact is, whether it’s a dog hit by a train or an old lady who had a heart attack on the can, someone has to clean up the nasty mess. And that someone is Webster Fillmore Goodhue, who just may be the least likely person in Los Angeles County to hold down such a gig. With his teaching career derailed by tragedy, Web hasn’t done much for the last year except some heavy slacking. But when his only friend in the world lets him know that his freeloading days are over, and he tires of taking cash from his spaced-out mom and refuses to take any more from his embittered father, Web joins Clean Team—and soon finds himself sponging a Malibu suicide’s brains from a bathroom mirror, and flirting with the man’s bereaved and beautiful daughter. Then things get weird: The dead man’s daughter asks a favor. Her brother’s in need of somebody who can clean up a mess. Every cell in Web’s brain tells him to turn her down, but something else makes him hit the Harbor Freeway at midnight to help her however he can. Is it her laugh? Her desperate tone of voice? The chance that this might be history’s strangest booty call? Whatever it is, soon enough it’s Web who needs the help when gun-toting California cowboys start showing up on his doorstep. What’s the deal? Is it something to do with what he cleaned up in that motel room in Carson? Or is it all about the brewing war between rival trauma cleaners? Web doesn’t have a clue, but he’ll need to get one if he’s going to keep from getting his face kicked in. Again. And again. And again. Full of black humor, stunning violence, singular characters, and neon dialogue, The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death is classic Charlie Huston: a wild ride that’ll leave you breathless and shaken, grinning and begging for more.

30 review for The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death

  1. 5 out of 5

    carol.

    First there was 'chick-lit.' Then there was 'hick-lit.' I hereby dub a new sub-genre: dick-lit. No, it's not about sex, porny-readers. I'm thinking of such books as The Goldfinch, Less Than Zero, Catcher In the Rye, and others whose titles escape me because it isn't a genre I read and enjoy. Usually. In the way that chick-lit is about women in their twenties finding their way, finding a job and finding a man (not necessarily in that order), dick-lit is about men in their twenties working out thei First there was 'chick-lit.' Then there was 'hick-lit.' I hereby dub a new sub-genre: dick-lit. No, it's not about sex, porny-readers. I'm thinking of such books as The Goldfinch, Less Than Zero, Catcher In the Rye, and others whose titles escape me because it isn't a genre I read and enjoy. Usually. In the way that chick-lit is about women in their twenties finding their way, finding a job and finding a man (not necessarily in that order), dick-lit is about men in their twenties working out their lives, finding a job and finding a woman (usually in that order). In this particular sub-genre, they also tend to be unlikable during the process. Webster, the protagonist, has good reason to be unlikable. As the story comes together, the reader starts to understand, if not necessarily applaud, Web's behavior and his travels on a sort of redemption arc. Of course, this is not the silly-girly redemption arc in chick-lit where she becomes An Entirely Different Awesome Person Embracing Change, but more like a 2.0 person, still with their dysfunctional history, still a fuck-up--just not as much of one. "I closed my eyes for a moment, when I opened them it was gone. I looked down the street, knowing it must have just turned the corner, but unable to keep myself from thinking other thoughts. Thinking about the Flying Dutchman. Ghost ships. Haunted freighters, lost souls that manifest and dissolve, unbidden. Just the usual." Don't read the blurb. It's a disaster of a description that gives a lot of the development away, and gets details wrong to boot. The story is set around Webster, an adult who has been freeloading on his best and life-long friend, Chev. Narrative is from Web's point of view, but because Web is focused on the here and now, explanations and mental digressions are in short supply. The reader is essentially dropped in on a teaser scene in a motel, and then returns to where the story begins with Web and Chet are squabbling like an old married couple. It becomes clear that Web is in immediate need of employment, so he takes a day-job cleaning up after messy deaths with their friend, Po Sin. In some ways it reads like a script, dialogue-heavy with little visual background. The one thing about Huston's writing is that he is violently allergic to quotation marks (at least, I presume that's the reason), so the structure may make or break your enjoyment of the book: I looked at the number. --Caller unknown. Probably a customer. Let me get this for you. --Do not pick that up. I flipped the phone open. --White Lightning Tattoo. Chev jammed a hand in his pocket, going for his keys. --Asshole! I nodded my head, phone at my ear, backing from the door. --A string of barbed wire? Around your biceps? Yea, sure, we can do that. Chev turned the key. --Do not say another word. I covered the mouthpiece with my hand. --No, it's cool, I can handle this. He pushed the door open. --Give me the phone. I took my hand from the mouthpiece. --Sure, sure we can do that wire around your arm. We can also tattoo lameass poser wannabe on your forehead. Chev came at me, grabbing for the phone. I held it over my head, screaming. --Or how about you just get a unicorn on your hip so people will know what a real man you are! What can I say? I liked it. I liked the feel of realness in the relationship between best friends, and in the dialogue between them. I like how the male friendship was portrayed with Chet as wells as with Po. I especially liked it when Web's friends continued to hold him accountable. I liked gradually finding out about Web through his interactions, rather than being told. The work was kind of fascinating, giving a voyeuristic insight into messy deaths, and I really wouldn't have minded more detail there. The humor was a little adolescent at time, punching and shoving and generally being sarcastic assholes. When Web encountered someone even more dickish than himself, I admit I laughed out loud a few times at the way Web talked to him. There's also a complicated crime-situation thing going on where Web unsurprisingly plays the clueless hero. Since the book was a nominee for both an Edgar and Anthony Award, I'll assume it qualifies as a mystery, although there's really a certain sort of screwball dark comedy to it. By the way, thought the cover looks like a dead woman, I'm almost certain everyone who died in the book was male. Just sayin', publishers. Dicks.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Melki

    I didn't move. Not being used to violence happening around me until recently, I didn't have a chance to move. But that didn't make Harris any more reluctant about planting the barrel of his revolver under my chin. The barrel of a gun, it's cold to the touch. -Do you know why you're alive? -Man, I do not. I really don't. He chucked my chin with the barrel. -You are alive to clean up the mess after I kill these two. Former teacher Webster Goodhue is sleeping his life away in an attempt to forget one hor I didn't move. Not being used to violence happening around me until recently, I didn't have a chance to move. But that didn't make Harris any more reluctant about planting the barrel of his revolver under my chin. The barrel of a gun, it's cold to the touch. -Do you know why you're alive? -Man, I do not. I really don't. He chucked my chin with the barrel. -You are alive to clean up the mess after I kill these two. Former teacher Webster Goodhue is sleeping his life away in an attempt to forget one horrific incident...hint: it wasn't the day they served mystery meat in the school cafeteria... He stumbles into a job as a crime scene cleaner and is soon embroiled not only in a turf war with a rival cleaning crew, but one of the most cockamamie heist schemes ever. This is a great read for those not squeamish about blood, guts and various bodily fluids. The dialogue is snappy and most of the characters are worth rooting for. Technically, this is probably only a four-star book, but I was completely taken with Web's relationship with his alcoholic, writer father, who also happens to be a serious reader. Here's a description of his dad's house: Piled books squeezed the entryway, leaving just clearance enough to open the door and scrape through. Shelves lined the walls. Shelves that were little more than more stacks of books broken by the occasional strata of pine plank used to create stability. The fireplace, long out of use, vomited books. The couch rested on a pedestal of them. Looking into the kitchen, I could see that the doors had been removed from the cabinets to allow more room for the spines of oversized editions to jut out. If I opened the fridge, I had little doubt I'd have found paperbacks wedged into the crisper, first editions of Mailer growing ice crystals in the freezer. I popped a woody and I don't even have a penis! If you read only one book about crime scene cleaners...make it this one.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ɗẳɳ 2.☊

    2.5ish. RTC? Sorry, but this one was a little too juvenile for my taste. Quick summary: Young asshole protagonist has some growing up to do.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lawyer

    The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death: Charlie Huston's Method of Picking up the Pieces "The thing about getting beat up twice, spending big chunks of time cleaning up other people's blood, seeing your dad for the first time in two years, getting in a fight with your best friend, and having sex with someone you think you might really like a lot and then going totally psycho on her, all in a twenty-four hour period, is that it's likely to affect your judgment."--Webb Fillmore Goodhue I The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death: Charlie Huston's Method of Picking up the Pieces "The thing about getting beat up twice, spending big chunks of time cleaning up other people's blood, seeing your dad for the first time in two years, getting in a fight with your best friend, and having sex with someone you think you might really like a lot and then going totally psycho on her, all in a twenty-four hour period, is that it's likely to affect your judgment."--Webb Fillmore Goodhue I was on the cusp of being a child of the Sixties. It was a different time to put things in a nutshell. I watched a fellow on a confused trip cross heavy traffic unscathed only to walk through the plate glass window of the popular cafeteria just off the Campus of the University of Alabama. I was the token straight of the Psychology Department who got high off the grass smoked by my classmates in an interim course taught by a happy go lucky professor who frequently proclaimed, "What's a fuck between friends" as he eyed potential targets in the coed pool. There were the still young veteran's returning from Vietnam, one questioning the talent of Mozart in comparison to himself who had wasted innumerable Gooks as a gunner on a Huey. Strange times. Times that turned one's thoughts to downright nihilism. Have you ever wondered what happened to children of the children of the Sixties? Charlie Huston paints us a plausible possibility with the personality of Webb Goodhue. Take Webb's mother who split to Oregon where she grows organic blackberries, bakes pies, and has an outstanding crop of organic Mary Jane of which she partakes liberally. His father, LL, was a hot author, who stuffed the head of his son with the nobility of teaching. Then LL does a 180 degree turn when he becomes the hot screenwriter in Hollywood. Huston captures the kaleidoscopic Sixties against the dark background of LA and Hollywood. It's a very appropriate setting that sets up a pile driving, fast and furious read. Webb's bound to be a little conflicted. However, he opts for the noble profession of teaching. He's a damned fine one until a horrific incident propels Webb into a year of tuning out and dropping out, living with his one best friend Chev who operates a tattoo parlor, scooping up a succession of hot chicks after piercing various intimate parts of their bodies. Webb's worn out his welcome. Chev's ready to show him the door unless Webb gets off his ass and begins to contribute to the expenses of keeping up their apartment, like paying rent and buying food. Enter Po-Sin, who might aptly be nicknamed "Darkness at Noon." Po-sin blocks out the sun when he enters a doorway. He's big. He's tough. And he may just be the key to getting Webb to burst out of the bubble of entropy in which he lives. Po-Sin is in the business of cleaning up things. Nasty things. Po-sin is the founder and CEO of "Clean Team," a trauma clean up service. The pay is $10.00 an hour. Webb reluctantly accepts the job. Po-Sin immerses Webb in a world not for the squeamish, cleaning up the scenes of death where hoarders are not discovered until the smell of their decomposing bodies are detected by their indifferent neighbors. Each job takes different techniques. There's a special need when a suicide fires a heavy calibre weapon into a mouthful of water. Then you can possibly imagine the mess when a fellow does himself in by inserting a pipe bomb in his anus and detonates it while sitting on a water mattress. But it's not just the business of cleaning up and erasing the signs of death that Webb finds himself involved. There's a great deal of competition among crime scene cleaners in LA. Webb becomes a punching bag for Po-Sin's competition. Things get complicated when Webb cleans the scene of a 9MM suicide at a Malibu beach house. The daughter of the suicide has hired "Clean Team." Her name is Soledad. She's lonely. She's needy. And she decides that Webb is just the comfort she needs following her father's suicide. Soledad might also be the key to Webb's salvation, until he goes off on her after a night of good lovin'. Hence, our protagonist Webb recognizes his serious conflicts of judgment, related to that horrific incident that drove him from teaching. The reader will have to discover the incident that triggered Webb's withdrawal from society. Suffice it to say, it's sufficient cause for a man to withdraw from the world. Webb is the poster boy for PTSD. Huston creates one of the nuttiest criminal heist stories to further propel his story. Soledad's half-brother, Jaime, is in crime over his head. Jaime is seriously limited in intelligence. His incompetence leads to the kidnapping of Soledad. Webb must overcome his wish to live inside himself to sort out the mess into which Jaime has gotten his half-sister. At the same time, Webb struggles with whether he trusts Soledad. Is she part and parcel of this heist? Did she have a part in her father's death? Was it a suicide or was it murder? Huston will have you turning the pages as fast as possible, with breaks to ease the queasiness in your stomach from very realistic portraits of crime scenes, messy suicides, and the decomposing fluids and tissues of the forgotten dregs of society. And you will be horrified at what you find yourself laughing at. This is my first Huston read. It will not be the last. This is a guilty pleasure. Quirky, you say? Well, I've always liked quirky. What about you? There's plenty of material here to allow the adventures of Webb Goodhue to continue. Let's hope they do. One cautionary statement here. This book is not for the squeamish. I do not know the source of Huston's accuracy in describing the horror of the signs of death. However, having visited more crime scenes than I ever wanted as a prosecutor for twenty-eight years, Huston knows his stuff. Well, let's make it two cautionary statements. If you are offended by profanity, you may be offended by its frequent use in this tale. However, I did not find it excessive in the context of the characters in this story. Charlie Huston is one of THE voices of contemporary noir. Read it. Underneath the glib, the irreverent, is a message of deep humanity of what it means to live outside of one's self. That's not a bad thing. Highly recommended.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Marvin

    Charlie Huston is in danger of leading my list as my all-time favorite writer with every book of his I read. I have soared through the Hank Thompson series and the Joe Pitts series. But this is the first stand alone novel of Huston's I've read. And it is freakin' awesome. Yeah, the author doesn't know how to use quotation marks. But unlike the pretentiousness of Cormac McCartney and Jose Saramargo, Huston's usage of dashes to connote dialogue moves the plot at neck break speed and the occasional Charlie Huston is in danger of leading my list as my all-time favorite writer with every book of his I read. I have soared through the Hank Thompson series and the Joe Pitts series. But this is the first stand alone novel of Huston's I've read. And it is freakin' awesome. Yeah, the author doesn't know how to use quotation marks. But unlike the pretentiousness of Cormac McCartney and Jose Saramargo, Huston's usage of dashes to connote dialogue moves the plot at neck break speed and the occasional confusion on who's saying what is a small price to pay for portrayal of the realistic banter and emotions that drives his plots into new territories. The plot of The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death is as gruesome and rough as most of his books. Huston is not for the squeamish. However, this particular book also portrays something that I didn't expect in an Huston novel; a sensitive understanding of families and the price we pay for our emotional connections or lack of. Huston has risen from pulp author extraordinaire to crime noir genius erasing the border between pulp and art. This is now my favorite Huston novel and if you peruse the bevy of five and four star reviews that I've written for his other books, you know that is saying something. Can I go to six stars on this one?

  6. 5 out of 5

    Toby

    The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Huston My rating: 5 of 5 stars Ranked #9 on my Top 10 Reads in 2012 Blurb: With his teaching career derailed by tragedy and his slacker days numbered, Webster Fillmore Goodhue makes an unlikely move and joins Clean Team, charged with tidying up L.A.'s grisly crime scenes. For Web, it's a steady gig, and he soon finds himself sponging a Malibu suicide's brains from a bathroom mirror and flirting with the man's bereaved and beaut The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Huston My rating: 5 of 5 stars Ranked #9 on my Top 10 Reads in 2012 Blurb: With his teaching career derailed by tragedy and his slacker days numbered, Webster Fillmore Goodhue makes an unlikely move and joins Clean Team, charged with tidying up L.A.'s grisly crime scenes. For Web, it's a steady gig, and he soon finds himself sponging a Malibu suicide's brains from a bathroom mirror and flirting with the man's bereaved and beautiful daughter. Then things get weird: The dead man's daughter asks a favor. Every cell in Web's brain tells him to turn her down, but something makes him hit the Harbor Freeway at midnight to help her however he can. Soon enough it's Web who needs the help when gun-toting California cowboys start showing up on his doorstep. What's the deal? Is it something to do with what he cleaned up in that motel room in Carson? Or is it all about the brewing war between rival trauma cleaners? Web doesn't have a clue, but he'll need to get one if he's going to keep from getting his face kicked in. Again. And again. And again Thoughts: This book is fantastic. I was blown away from the start and didn't want to stop reading until I'd gotten to the end. It transcends genres and categorisation but in the end I'd say it was literature because of the over-arching story of how one man deals with an horrific event that happened in his past. The character of Web is so real, his voice addictive and funny and his adventure in to the world of crime scene cleanup is a highly entertaining surface for the emotional journey he takes. But it is not just Web that is well written it is everyone in the ragtag bunch of people he comes in to contact with thanks to his new job. Guys, girls, they all have a purpose for the story but they also are rounded and true with unique voices in addition to that purpose. There are some really grizzly no holds barred descriptive passages of violence and crime scenes; one early on was so vividly described I felt as if the stench was on the air and forced my imagination to calm down before it made me vomit. And it really is funny, so many laugh out loud moments that seemed in tune with that excellent TV show Archer, and it's not vulgar or in poor taste, the jokes are not at the expense of victims of crime as it might have been easy to do, the humour comes from the honest human reactions and interactions. I can't sing this books praises highly enough, well worth the read, one of the most enjoyable books I've read in the last 12 months, right up there with the very excellent and in some ways similar Savages. HBO developed a pilot based on this book but it never got aired or picked up, I find this slightly disappointing as obviously it has a lot of potential for recurring characters and long running storylines in the world of crime scene cleanup. Think The Sopranos meets Sunshine Cleaning. Originally posted at Blahblahblahgay

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kemper

    With a sympathetic but emotionally self-destructive main character, an off-beat plot and lots of very gory humor, this was a wildly original story and my favorite Charlie Huston novel to date. Those with weak stomachs should note that there are very graphic scenes dealing with the clean-up of human remains in the aftermath of extreme violence.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Malum

    I knew I wasn't going to like this book when the adult characters were throwing out "That's what your mom said last night" jokes from the very beginning of the book. Unfortunately, it didn't get much better from there. The entire book is about a group of grown ass man-babies acting like morons. There are also a bunch of little mysteries that are alluded to throughout the book, such as why the main character refuses to ride in busses or why he can't take money from his dad. The reveals to these l I knew I wasn't going to like this book when the adult characters were throwing out "That's what your mom said last night" jokes from the very beginning of the book. Unfortunately, it didn't get much better from there. The entire book is about a group of grown ass man-babies acting like morons. There are also a bunch of little mysteries that are alluded to throughout the book, such as why the main character refuses to ride in busses or why he can't take money from his dad. The reveals to these little mysteries always fall flat, though. It's always like "BIG EMOTIONAL REVEAL!!!!!!" and I'm just like "oh.....ok". The character arc of the main character, where he wants to try to start acting like an adult, also falls way flat and is extremely unsatisfying (especially since it never goes much farther than "I'll try to act like a grown up, but it's really hard you guys!"). The biggest problem, however, is the plot. The main plot doesn't kick in until halfway through the book (before that it just meanders on and on as we follow the most boring loser around in his daily life). When the plot does kick in, does the main character try to find clues to solve the mystery? Nope, he just sits around with another guy and they have a massive, multi-chapter, juvenile (like calling each other names and slamming on breaks to make the other person hit the dashboard), boring conversation that begins to untangle the boring mystery. Did I mention it's boring?

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mike (the Paladin)

    Well...I need to thank my public library. They have helped me immensely in having this book for me to check out. Now I know I don't ever want to read anything else by Mr. Huston. I already had a second book ready to read but this piece of crap has opened my eyes. Mr. Huston is not writing for me...I am not his target audience. His humor is not the humor I find funny. His characters are not ones I really care for or about. This book lost my interest early on, never got it back and finally managed Well...I need to thank my public library. They have helped me immensely in having this book for me to check out. Now I know I don't ever want to read anything else by Mr. Huston. I already had a second book ready to read but this piece of crap has opened my eyes. Mr. Huston is not writing for me...I am not his target audience. His humor is not the humor I find funny. His characters are not ones I really care for or about. This book lost my interest early on, never got it back and finally managed to convince me to, skip forward. The idea behind this book sounded interesting. I suspect that the writer can write, it's just that what he "likes" and what I "like" are about as far apart as East and West. For one thing he seems to find the simple use of obscenities uproariously funny. The great English "F" word seems to strike him as the epitome of wit. As a matter of fact he doesn't seem to find any witticism, quip, or joke funny if it doesn't include said obscenity. I think maybe he's just trying to impress us with his use of language. It's the only reason I can come up with for the apparent inability to communicate without profanity. Humor or touching moment he needs said profanity. The story is disjointed, sort of the day to day life of a regretful ne'er do well who takes a job cleaning up death scenes...when he's forced to. See he really didn't want to take any job much less one where he has to drag out bags of "solid human waste" (of course he has more colorful names for all this but I think you get the idea). Told with bad jokes and poor taste by a guy who's the kind of wise-ass that makes jokes at other "folk's expense" and when they're already in a bad way...and he's not the kind of Wise-ass character I can like by the way, maybe you'll feel differently???? Anyway loose story-telling, disjointed story, little continuity. We get to live though our hero's revelations of life (and death). Wheee. I didn't find him or his story that interesting, no wait I didn't find it interesting in the least. All that's been accomplished here is I've been convinced I won't be reading anything else by the author (I'm sure he'll muddle through some how) and I'm very glad I didn't spend money on the book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ladiibbug

    1/2 a star is being generous AWFUL. SIMPLY HORRIBLE. WHAT A WASTE OF PAPER. Quit after 90 pages. Unlikeable characters, who all have the emotional and intellectual depth of Beavis & Butthead. Dialog written sounds like the reader is watching the idiotic twosome. Every other word is the "f" word or something similar. I think I lost about 100 brain cells due to dumbing down while reading this book for one hour. The crime scene cleaning company's work is described in sickening and disrespectful ways. Wh 1/2 a star is being generous AWFUL. SIMPLY HORRIBLE. WHAT A WASTE OF PAPER. Quit after 90 pages. Unlikeable characters, who all have the emotional and intellectual depth of Beavis & Butthead. Dialog written sounds like the reader is watching the idiotic twosome. Every other word is the "f" word or something similar. I think I lost about 100 brain cells due to dumbing down while reading this book for one hour. The crime scene cleaning company's work is described in sickening and disrespectful ways. What a major disappointment. I so enjoyed CH's Henry Thompson trilogy, and The Shotgun Rule. This is the kind of dreck that earns a book my vote for Worst Read of the Year :-(

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kristina

    What a delightfully nasty little book! There’s lots to love about this modern-noir novel; lots of blood, drama, profanity, double-crosses, and dark comedy. I laughed and winced in equal measure and had an overall wonderful time. The characters are all fabulously flawed and possibly irredeemable but I loved them anyway. Highly recommended. 😎

  12. 5 out of 5

    Amy Corwin

    "The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death" is one of those books I would classify as a guilty pleasure. When discussing fiction with other intellectuals, I would probably disclaim all knowledge of this book. But privately, I LOVED IT and will most assuredly be buying more books by Huston. This is not the kind of novel a 15-year-old girl should admit to reading, especially to her parents. (And no, I don't fit into that category.) It is also not the kind of novel one would expect a fifty-somet "The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death" is one of those books I would classify as a guilty pleasure. When discussing fiction with other intellectuals, I would probably disclaim all knowledge of this book. But privately, I LOVED IT and will most assuredly be buying more books by Huston. This is not the kind of novel a 15-year-old girl should admit to reading, especially to her parents. (And no, I don't fit into that category.) It is also not the kind of novel one would expect a fifty-something professional woman to be reading. (And I'll never admit to fitting into that category, either.) In fact, I can't think of anyone who could comfortably admit to reading this book to any member of his/her family. Unless the reader is homeless and has no family members who can read. But to restate: I loved this book. Any book that begins with the hero engaged in an argument about who is the bigger jerk (except not using that term) is, well, it's funny. I know it should not be, but it is. It may be juvenile, but I can't help loving a character who can smart-mouth someone while they are kicking the heck out them. So I should start by saying, this book is not for you if... If you find swearing offensive. If the thought of exploding bodies fills you with disgust. If sick, cynical humor doesn't tickle your funny bone. If you can't stand to read books with experimental punctuation. Or if you don't find yourself laughing at hopelessly inappropriate moments. (This is a terrible fault of mine that I can't seem to control.) This book is not for the faint of heart, or the remorselessly, politically correct. Or those who insist the normal rules of grammar be followed. "The Mystic Arts..." is about those marginal characters you see hanging around in the alleys behind tattoo parlors. People who cling to the fringes of Society and are so often ignored and passed by (in a hurry) by People Who Have A Real Job. So if the lost, the marginal, and the dysfunctional disturb you, then again, this is not the book for you. But did I mention that I love this book? It is not, however, without flaws. But the storytelling is so excellent, and you are so drawn into Web's woes and concerns that the flaws, such as they are, don't really matter. This is a brilliant piece of fiction, consisting almost entirely of dialog, that dramatically reveals Web's life at the point of transformation. But there was a flaw. There exists a certain set of authors who believe our rules for punctuation and grammar are not good enough. They insist on creating their own rules. (I read a great deal of experimental fiction, so I am not speaking from an uneducated, "never-seen-this-before" perspective.) They believe this enhances the immediacy of their work. Or whatever they believe in their supreme over-confidence. They are always wrong. Perhaps Huston believes his system makes the dialog "more real". I did not find this to be the case. It merely made it annoying. I liked the book in spite of this, not because of it. In fact, although I got the hang of his punctuation after a couple of pages, there were several places where I had no idea. I reread a few sections three or four times and never really figured out which character was saying what. Note, however: I loved it despite, not because of, the peculiar punctuation and grammar. The bizarre punctuation did not help. In fact, it hindered. Sigh. So anyway, in order to present a useful review of "The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death" I read a few of the other criticisms. If at all possible, I wanted to present some new perspective to help potential buyers make the ultimate decision to plunk down their hard earned money. Some reviewers remarked about what they considered to be a meandering, slow-to-start plot. I have to disagree with this, vehemently. Yes, it might seem that way if you only consider plot to be external events and "stuff" that happens to a character. Web, the main character, is initially occupied with sleeping and sponging off his best friend. But there is a huge transformation taking place, and that is the real plot. Web is crawling out of his comfortable stasis. He is forced to come to terms with his situation and life. While action-wise he spends an inordinate amount of time having extremely funny and snarky conversations with a variety of people, beneath it all, it is about his character transformation. He gets a job and realizes he actually wants to work. He wants to face life again instead of sleeping 18 hours out of 24. And we see this process in all its quirky, funny glory as he begins to work, finds himself in a relationship, and is forced out of his shell. We find out about past traumas and what it takes to overcome the inertia of shock and grief. It is not all about external events/action and the mystery he stumbles into on his path to recovery. (If you can call his eventual state recovery. I think you can, but maybe I'm weird.) Anyway, as with any good novel, once Web starts to try to re-enter the world, all sorts of bad things happen to him. Hence the mystery aspect. So I have to agree that the first part has very little external action, i.e. people beating up on him. But it is what it has to be. In the end, I was enthralled and jazzed by this book. Web was endearing and funny. His predicament was so agonizing that I could not stop reading it. And despite the exploding bodies and gore and things I know I should not laugh at, I read it with a stupid smile on my face and laughter bubbling at the back of my throat. It's insanely sick and yet, insanely good.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Katy

    Disclosure: This was an Amazon Vine book. I read and reviewed it in 2009. My Synopsis: Webster Goodhue used to be an elementary-school teacher, until a traumatic event catapulted him into a depression that has left him bumming around behind his tattoo artist friend Chev. However, when Chev tells him the free ride is over and that Web had better take the job that their friend Po Sin has just offered (cleaning up stuff - a rather vague description), Web finds himself in a most unexpected field of w Disclosure: This was an Amazon Vine book. I read and reviewed it in 2009. My Synopsis: Webster Goodhue used to be an elementary-school teacher, until a traumatic event catapulted him into a depression that has left him bumming around behind his tattoo artist friend Chev. However, when Chev tells him the free ride is over and that Web had better take the job that their friend Po Sin has just offered (cleaning up stuff - a rather vague description), Web finds himself in a most unexpected field of work: that of cleaning up the scenes of violent death. Of course, since Web has a problem with diarrhea of the mouth, at one of the early jobs (suicide of a man with brain cancer) he makes an inappropriate comment, which just happens to be overheard by the man's daughter, Soledad. When he goes to apologize, they end up talking and seem to spark, but soon it is time to leave and no one gets a number. Later, when Web is watching the shop while Po Sin and Gabe (the other member of their company, Clean Team, who - of course - has a mysterious past), Soledad calls and tells Web that she needs his help - to clean up something. This catapults Web into a situation that ends up way beyond his control. My Thoughts: This is basically what I can describe about the plot without giving away spoilers. It is described fairly accurately on the book's page - but the one thing I noticed while reading the book is that the overall theme goes beyond the violence, beyond the death scenes being mopped up, beyond even the LA "cowboys" (although they're pretty funny to someone raised by a real cowboy!) - this book is about the evolution of a personality that has been warped by PTSD, about that personality realizing that it needs help and beginning to turn around and face its demons and come back alive. It's an amazing thing and I was very impressed. I was also impressed (and surprised) while going through my wish list and updating my hard copy thereof to find I have several books by this author on it already - apparently I was already aware of how cool he was. I had just forgotten with my Swiss Cheese memory! So, with renewed enthusiasm, I will be seeking out his other works. My one complaint: I do have one nitpick, though. Obviously the author never took any basic mass-communication courses or he would know this very basic spelling error, this very common mistake made by millions of people who are used to doubling the final consonant before adding an "es" to the word - and that mistake is using the word "busses" as the plural for "bus." The reason that this is a mistake is that there is a word "buss" and that word means "a light kiss." The plural of that word is "busses" and this means "many or multiple light kisses." The plural of "bus" is "buses." Now you know. Point and laugh now every time you go by a fast food restaurant that has a sign that says "busses welcome." Point and laugh at "busses only" lanes on the road. Generally have a good time with your newfound knowledge! Oh, and while you are out doing that, buy this book!

  14. 4 out of 5

    James Glass

    I really enjoyed this book. It was a bit difficult to read at first because the writer's format is something I've never come across. He doesn't use quotation marks for people speaking, but once I got past it, the story flowed along nicely. Webster Goodhue was an elementary school teacher until his career was detailed by a horrific incident on a field trip. Webster is an obnoxious smartass, but I thought the writer wrote the character well enough so the sarcasm wasn't overly done or drawn out. We I really enjoyed this book. It was a bit difficult to read at first because the writer's format is something I've never come across. He doesn't use quotation marks for people speaking, but once I got past it, the story flowed along nicely. Webster Goodhue was an elementary school teacher until his career was detailed by a horrific incident on a field trip. Webster is an obnoxious smartass, but I thought the writer wrote the character well enough so the sarcasm wasn't overly done or drawn out. Webster ends up working for a friend, Po Sin, who runs a cleaning service to clean up crime scenes. It's an unlikely job for the slacker, Web, until he's asked by the bereaved daughter who just lost her dad to a suicide for Webs help. Things not only get weird, but dangerous when she's kidnapped. Then the adventure begins. Anyone who reads morbid stories will enjoy this. A great read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jennie

    While reading this book, I encountered some obsessive's post-it notes... post-it note#1 "I'd like to apologize to you on behalf of whomever it was who dogeared this book. It's a *new* book! I'm opposed to dog-earing *any* booj--but a *library* book? So, (And here the writer of the note has helpfully drawn an arrow to said "dog ear") sorry about that. Interestingly, a book gets dogeared in *this* book--see page 82." I had a few thoughts about this note... 1. So, while it is deeply offensive to fold a While reading this book, I encountered some obsessive's post-it notes... post-it note#1 "I'd like to apologize to you on behalf of whomever it was who dogeared this book. It's a *new* book! I'm opposed to dog-earing *any* booj--but a *library* book? So, (And here the writer of the note has helpfully drawn an arrow to said "dog ear") sorry about that. Interestingly, a book gets dogeared in *this* book--see page 82." I had a few thoughts about this note... 1. So, while it is deeply offensive to fold a page, it is just fine to slather paper of an inferior quality with corrosive adhesive. 2. I am so breaking the binding on this book. (It was already broken.) 3. I'm a librarian and I don't care about people folding pages in books and I take sadistic pleasure in the crunch of a breaking spine. I do not, however, like people who leave notes to me in books. Do what you gotta do, but don't write in books. (Underlining counts. I take a dim view of what you find important.) 4. I wonder who wrote this b/c the reference to the dogeared book on page 82 is quirky enough to make them likable. and finally, whoever did fold the page over is the type of intellectual heavyweight that would need to remember if they were on page 5. Who folds down page 5? It's page 5. My mystery post-it crusader did not make mention of this and perhaps this makes them less likable. So...imagine my delight at finding post-it#2 "Jeez! They can barely read 5 pages at a time! Too bad there's no mystic arts of erasing all signs of dogearing. Hope you don't think post-its are just as bad. I'll stop now." 1. Yes! They can't read more than 5 pages. They suck. Good for you. 2. I don't like how you tried to use the title...or maybe it's ok. No, I think it's meh at best. 3. I both love and hate your post-its. 4. I hope I find another one. ...but I never did. ----- I did like the book, so I'm gonna go get a mouth full of water and shoot myself in the head...no, I'm going to just discuss this over a meal after I tell my dining companion(s) about what happens when you sit on a waterbed with a pipebomb up your ass.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Blamp Head

    DIFFICULTY SETTING Easy: Reward="Wow, you're human!" badge - Find casual, easy banter between characters in the book. - Enjoy the speed of the dialogue. - Find the setting fascinating (characters cleaning up after violent incidents). I've never considered the importance of this... - List all swear words you know, and then some. Find all within this book. - Feel dirty and in desperate need of a shower or five after reading a couple of chapters of this. Medium: Reward="You were paying attention... DIFFICULTY SETTING Easy: Reward="Wow, you're human!" badge - Find casual, easy banter between characters in the book. - Enjoy the speed of the dialogue. - Find the setting fascinating (characters cleaning up after violent incidents). I've never considered the importance of this... - List all swear words you know, and then some. Find all within this book. - Feel dirty and in desperate need of a shower or five after reading a couple of chapters of this. Medium: Reward="You were paying attention..." badge - Find scenes where the main character is not acting like a jerk. - Find other characters who are not acting like jerks. Hard: Reward="This is getting too much!" badge - Read through some scenes involving people having met with violent ends, and the very graphic descriptions. - Not feel sorry for the main character at times. He gets himself into some seriously screwed up situations, and his tendency to be a jerk is somewhat forgivable. - Get used to the non-standard structure of dialogue and always know who's speaking. Impossible: Reward="You're a complete jerk." badge - Recommend this to anyone without a strong stomach. - Recommend this to anyone without an extreme tolerance for excessive swearing. - Read this without feeling like the characters are incredibly real and human. - Read this and not consider how much less disgusting work is than the characters' work. - Ignore the pressing, unshakable icky feeling this book leaves.

  17. 4 out of 5

    sappho_reader

    Last week while reading a different book on my Kindle I received the annoying popup message that I only had 15% power left so after I plugged it in to recharge I grabbed this particular book off my pile to read in the meantime (because I need to have a book to read within arm’s reach at all times). I read about the first 40 or so pages and quickly forgot about the previous book. The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death is an engaging book that quickly sucks you in. Under other circumstances Last week while reading a different book on my Kindle I received the annoying popup message that I only had 15% power left so after I plugged it in to recharge I grabbed this particular book off my pile to read in the meantime (because I need to have a book to read within arm’s reach at all times). I read about the first 40 or so pages and quickly forgot about the previous book. The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death is an engaging book that quickly sucks you in. Under other circumstances I probably would have been deeply annoyed by the main character Web for being such a smart ass and sarcastic p.o.s. but I actually enjoyed his banter with the other characters especially Jaime which was pretty funny most times. It was interesting to get a glimpse into the socially taboo occupation of crime scene cleanup although I felt Charlie Huston somewhat exploited this by constantly describing in the most intricate details the subject of brain matter splatter in more than one scene in the book. What really disturbed me more was the hoarder with the Ziploc bags of shit and all the cockroaches. Now that was pretty disgusting. I agree with a previous reviewer who complained about the lack of plot. Although there was a lot of action going on I kept waiting for *something* to happen. Towards the end we get introduced to the theft of the almond container but then that just kind of fizzled out. Regardless, this was a pretty good book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rick

    Eating and reading often go well together. An entertaining book and a good meal can make for a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Unless the book happens to be Charlie Huston’s gruesome thriller The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death. When his roommate tires of his freeloading, Webster “Web” Fillmore Goodhue gets a job in the cutthroat world of trauma-scene cleanup and soon finds himself knee-deep in blood and guts. The detached, sarcastic former teacher discovers that he is not only good at Eating and reading often go well together. An entertaining book and a good meal can make for a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Unless the book happens to be Charlie Huston’s gruesome thriller The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death. When his roommate tires of his freeloading, Webster “Web” Fillmore Goodhue gets a job in the cutthroat world of trauma-scene cleanup and soon finds himself knee-deep in blood and guts. The detached, sarcastic former teacher discovers that he is not only good at the job but actually enjoys the quasi-solitude of the Tyvek suit and labor that has immediate and obvious results. Soon after his first assignment — a disgusting scene of roach hordes and impossibly nauseating smells, Web’s second cleanup finds him in the unenviable position of interacting with Soledad, the grieving daughter of a gun-inflicted-suicide victim. --At least he left a note. I didn’t say anything, too occupied at the moment with working my Scotch-Brite pad over the speckles of blood on the surface of her dad’s desk. She picked another almond from the large bowl of them on the table next to the wingback chair near the the hallway door. -- I mean, I knew he was sick. But I’m glad he left the note anyway. So I know for sure why he did it. Sort of. She dropped the almond back in the bowl, picked out another. -- You think anyone would lie about that? I mean, no one would lie on their suicide note, would they? I replaced the lamp I’d taken from the desk, minus the silk shade that had been sprayed, and looked over at her. -- You want to be a little more enigmatic with your questions? Seriously, if you try a little harder I might get curious or something. The pair’s discussion quickly veers into flirtation. Po Sin, Web’s literally larger than life Chinese boss, warns his young protégé to steer clear of the comely Soledad. “And people in her situation, they are prone to acting in ways they would not under normal circumstances. Start doing shit like talking to the help about their personal tragedies. Situations like that can become quickly awkward.” Web’s situation quickly spirals out of control in Huston’s 21st-century interpretation of the classic noir. Thanks primarily to events related to the femme fatale, Web routinely receives threats and beatings as he sinks deeper into a dizzying conspiracy. Masterfully manipulating stereotypes, Huston populates his Los Angeles with fascinating complex, fully realized individuals — many worthy of their own books. Beginning in his prologue, Huston immediately thrusts the reader into a maelstrom of confrontation and dark humor. Then I looked at much larger bloodstains on the sheets of the queen-size bed and the flecks of blood spattered on the wall. I looked at the floor to see what I’d crushed underfoot, half expecting cockroaches, and found dozens of scattered almonds instead. I listened as the door closed behind me and locked. I watched as Soledad walked toward the bathroom and the dude snagged her by the hand before she could go in. -- I asked, Is this the asshole? I pointed at myself. -- Honestly, in most circumstances, in any given room on any given day, I’d say, Yeah, I’m the asshole here. But in this particular scenario, and I know we just met and all, but in this room here? I pointed at him. -- I’m more willing to give you the benefit of the doubt and say that you’re the asshole. He looked at Soledad. -- So, yeah, he’s the asshole then? Unable to control his sarcastic tendencies, most of Web’s beatings result from his inability to shut up. Despite self-aware prose and excessive gore, The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death barrels at a frenetic and exciting pace to a satisfying, inconclusive threads-akimbo conclusion on page 280. Unfortunately, L.A. resident Huston, in typical Hollywood fashion, felt compelled to tie up all of his dangling story lines and rambles on for another 40 pages, sanitizing his otherwise deliciously dirty world. Even with its faults, The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death successfully introduces a fascinating new protagonist in a thoroughly entertaining novel. Just don’t read it while eating. This review originally appeared in the San Antonio Current January 28, 2009.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Col

    Synopsis/blurb..... With his teaching career derailed by tragedy and his slacker days numbered, Webster Fillmore Goodhue makes an unlikely move and joins Clean Team, charged with tidying up L.A.'s grisly crime scenes. For Web, it's a steady gig, and he soon finds himself sponging a Malibu suicide's brains from a bathroom mirror and flirting with the man's bereaved and beautiful daughter. Then things get weird: The dead man's daughter asks a favor. Every cell in Web's brain tells him to turn her do Synopsis/blurb..... With his teaching career derailed by tragedy and his slacker days numbered, Webster Fillmore Goodhue makes an unlikely move and joins Clean Team, charged with tidying up L.A.'s grisly crime scenes. For Web, it's a steady gig, and he soon finds himself sponging a Malibu suicide's brains from a bathroom mirror and flirting with the man's bereaved and beautiful daughter. Then things get weird: The dead man's daughter asks a favor. Every cell in Web's brain tells him to turn her down, but something makes him hit the Harbor Freeway at midnight to help her however he can. Soon enough it's Web who needs the help when gun-toting California cowboys start showing up on his doorstep. What's the deal? Is it something to do with what he cleaned up in that motel room in Carson? Or is it all about the brewing war between rival trauma cleaners? Web doesn't have a clue, but he'll need to get one if he's going to keep from getting his face kicked in. Again. And again. And again. "There are many things to love about Charlie Huston's fiction-he's a brilliant storyteller, and writes the best dialogue since George V. Higgins-but what pushes my personal happy-button is his morbid sense of humor and seemingly effortless ability to create scary/funny bad guys who make Beavis and Butthead look like Rhodes Scholars. [Charlie Huston has] written several very good books, but this is the first authentically great one, a runaway freight that feels like a combination of William Burroughs and James Ellroy. Mystic Arts is, however, fiercely original-very much its own thing."--Stephen King "Smoking-hot... scorchingly good dialogue and banner-worthy chapter headings (like "Till His Neighbors Smelled Him" and "To Keep Him From Crushing My Spine."). And Mr. Huston, whose own brain matter is as much on display as the stuff that gets spattered here, finally delivers a book that anyone can admire. No strong stomach required."--"New York Times" ------------------------- My take....... December read of the month for the pulp fiction group I’m part of over on Goodreads. I have read Huston before; his Already Dead back in 2010, which I enjoyed. Truth be told, I enjoyed this but probably not as much as Stephen King. Our protagonist, Web Goodhue is, for reasons which become obvious as the story develops a bit of a tool. Selfish, hurtful, feckless, shiftless.......not particularly likeable, as he does everything in his powers to alienate his friends and push the world away. Quite often, I can identify with the anti-hero or the outsider, as they have some redeeming qualities that evoke some level of empathy, but early on Huston made it hard for me. As the book unfolds, Web provoked and cajoled, casts aside his lethargy and starts work as a Clean Team cleaner. His first job involves assisting with the clean-up of a Malibu gun suicide. His ennui shelved, he tries to help Soledad, the attractive daughter of the dead man when she calls him late at night. The plot didn’t quite work for me. Soledad and her brother need a clean-up. Web obliges, though her half-brother is a bigger tool than him. Web and Soledad have sex, Soledad gets kidnapped and Web tries to broker a deal working in tandem with the brother, to get her back. All the while becoming a more likeable and sympathetic person, kinder and more thoughtful to friends, family and strangers. His back story and complicated family history is revealed, which explains a lot about him. He is a far better person at the conclusion of the book than at the outset. He’s made a journey and exits feeling a lot more hopeful about life in general, in part due to his own efforts, but also those of his friends who refused to be pushed away. Interesting, enjoyable, black, dark and funny as hell in places.......just didn’t have the indefinable X-factor for me though. Strange to say, but I have had books like this before that when read a second time around – Swierczynski’s The Wheelman – for example, ticked more boxes on the second ride. I kind of feel this would be one of those.....unfortunately, I doubt I will have the time for a re-read. Overall a 4 from 5, teetered on a 3, but it did make me chuckle and it is Christmas, so a 4 then! Plenty more Huston sitting on the pile of the vast unreads. Acquired from Amazon UK, recently.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Glen Stott

    I should give this book 5 stars for making me famous – almost. On page 222, he describes the two sewage treatment plant digesters on Terminal Island as reminding him of a woman’s chest. It just so happens that I was on the design team for those digesters in the 1970s. We called them egg-shaped, which is actually a more accurate description. The police helicopters used to pick me up at City Hall and fly me back and forth to Terminal Island whenever I needed to get info at the site. The copters fl I should give this book 5 stars for making me famous – almost. On page 222, he describes the two sewage treatment plant digesters on Terminal Island as reminding him of a woman’s chest. It just so happens that I was on the design team for those digesters in the 1970s. We called them egg-shaped, which is actually a more accurate description. The police helicopters used to pick me up at City Hall and fly me back and forth to Terminal Island whenever I needed to get info at the site. The copters flew low enough to see scores of women sunbathing on flat roofs of buildings, many of them after a Full Monte tan. Close enough to see that, but not close enough to see the details. Well that was a pointless digression – I will get on with the book review. The actual story doesn’t really begin until page 222. Up to that point, very little of what happens is actually relevant to the story. It is filled with pointless digressions; some of which are mildly interesting, but most are just word count fluff. Since the book is 319 pages, it is almost over before the story actually starts. Speaking of page count, the book is formatted so that each chapter is on the front of a page by itself. The obverse of that page is also blank, so that is a minimum of two blank pagers for every chapter. Depending upon the where the previous chapter ends, there could be a blank page before the chapter title page. Though none of these pages has a page number on it, they are all counted in the total page count of the book. There are 24 chapters, so estimating an average number of blank pages between each chapter at 2 ½, that means the 319 page count has roughly 60 blank pages – meaning the book is actually only about 259 pages. In the beginning, I thought that was a rip-off, but as I went along I was happy each time I could skip several pages in a row. That was also a nearly pointless digression – but it serves a notice of what it is like to read “The Mystic Arts …” This is the story of an ex-school teacher named Web. He is still a young man – the reason he left teaching is explained in a later digression; one that at least served a purpose. It is his story, narrated by him. As a narrator, Web likes to list things – nearly every scene involves a list of things. That and his digressions build the word count. Huston intentionally makes the reading difficult. Instead of quotation marks, he starts each quotation with a dash and he provides no punctuation at the end of his quotations. On top of that, he never uses tag lines like, “he said, Soledad said, etc..” This results in stopping the flow of a scene to figure out who is saying what and if a quote has ended and something else has begun. This serves no purpose in the story. Perhaps it is just a way Huston has of stroking his ego because he is different, or maybe it’s to make the reader feel the 259 pages were actually 319. It felt like much more to me. I didn’t like Web, mostly because he is a smart-alecky, self-important little moocher. Every conversation is filled with lame sarcasm, most often directed in a derogatory way to the person Web is talking to. Though this is explained later, it is way over done. If fact, it seems that Huston is so enamored with his ability to create Web’s sarcasm, he has most of his other characters use it, though not to the same extend. It’s like reading Ann Coulter or Rachel Maddow. The short story that was melded into the last 100 pages was mediocre. Definitely not worth the effort required to read all the rest. If you are interested in gory details of cleaning up the mess at a death scene, for instance, someone who blew his head all over a room by dispatching himself with a gun in the mouth while it’s full of water, this may be for you. By the way, with a mouth full of water, the mess expands exponentially, and Huston explains, in detail, why this is so and how you clean that up. Huston probably put a lot of work into this in order to bore and offend me, so I gave him a star for the work. Oops! Took a it little too personally – Huston doesn’t even know me. He does have fans that enjoyed the book, so there’s that.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mykle

    This book combines an unbeatable and scrupulously-researched concept -- noir fiction about the people who clean up dead bodies! -- with an intricately structured crime story -- needy femme fatale draws hero into dangerous smuggling operation, and is then kidnapped! -- and a colorful cast of characters -- Chinese-American kung-fu father figure who is morbidly obese! -- and the whole thing screams I COULDN'T SELL THIS AS A SCREENPLAY SO I FIGURED I'D JUST WRITE IT AS A BOOK AND LICENSE THE FILM RI This book combines an unbeatable and scrupulously-researched concept -- noir fiction about the people who clean up dead bodies! -- with an intricately structured crime story -- needy femme fatale draws hero into dangerous smuggling operation, and is then kidnapped! -- and a colorful cast of characters -- Chinese-American kung-fu father figure who is morbidly obese! -- and the whole thing screams I COULDN'T SELL THIS AS A SCREENPLAY SO I FIGURED I'D JUST WRITE IT AS A BOOK AND LICENSE THE FILM RIGHTS. It's one of those books that you start reading, keep reading and finish reading, despite a smoldering annoyance with the indigestible LA-ness and unlikelihood of it all. That the hero is an incurable smart-ass jerk, and that his friends, foes and everyone he talks to are also incurable smart-ass jerks, and that you often can't tell which jerk is talking because they all sound so much like the same guy, leads me to worry that Charlie Huston may in fact be an incurable smart-ass jerk. I hope not. But he's really a bit too proud of his repartee, which is just slightly less witty than it thinks it is. (FWIW, my friend who lent me this book really did try to steer me toward a different Charlie Huston book, perhaps a better one.) Everything about the characters in this book is straight out of Hollywood. The hero has a Dark Secret due to a Tragic Mishap (random, unavoidable, meaningless yet scarring) and we slowly learn that his smart-ass jerkiness is not the sign of someone being a colossal dick, but just a cry for help. His life is turned around by a Beautiful Girl who's suffered her own Tragic Mishap, but she's in trouble with The Wrong Kind Of People ... oh please. Nevertheless, as bubblegum for a long plane flight, it's a fun, fluffy read. Dead people, at least, are always interesting.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lucinda

    The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death (Ballantine 2009) is the very strange story of former Los Angeles elementary school teacher Web Goodhue. For reasons that become clear later, we meet Web in his total slacker phase, leeching off his friend Chev, who runs a tattoo parlor, and the occasional donations from his hippie mother, who grows blackberries and marijuana in Oregon. Just as Chev reaches the end of his generosity, Po Sin, owner of a crime scene cleanup business, offers Web a job. The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death (Ballantine 2009) is the very strange story of former Los Angeles elementary school teacher Web Goodhue. For reasons that become clear later, we meet Web in his total slacker phase, leeching off his friend Chev, who runs a tattoo parlor, and the occasional donations from his hippie mother, who grows blackberries and marijuana in Oregon. Just as Chev reaches the end of his generosity, Po Sin, owner of a crime scene cleanup business, offers Web a job. Web’s first experience as a member of the Clean Team is the home of a old man who was dead for far too long before his body was discovered, followed by that of a man who blew his brains all over the room with a large caliber gun. Web’s monologue to himself while cleaning the bathroom startles the man’s daughter, Soledad, into shocked laughter. The two trade sort-of-friendly insults until Po Sin hauls Web back to the serious business of learning the mystic arts of erasing all signs of death. When Soledad calls Web later asking for help cleaning up a hotel room covered with blood, Web finds himself in the midst of a tangled mess of smuggling and kidnapping. Told mainly in amazing realistic dialog, Web’s narration slowly reveals the secrets of his past as he struggles to get a handle on the present. The supporting cast includes some scary yet amusing bad guys and Soledad’s astoundingly dim-witted brother. This unsettling, morbidly funny, surprisingly hopeful, and very original book was a finalist for the 2010 Edgar Award for Best Novel. http://www.stopyourekillingme.com/H_A...

  23. 5 out of 5

    Anna (Bananas)

    One of my favorite authors. His books are hilarious and a fun ride start to finish, while still managing to pull an emotional response from me every time. Mystic Arts is a stand alone and it features another lead character who does not know when to SHUT THE HELL UP. I can't tell you how many times I've cringed as one of Huston's characters runs off at the mouth, because I know what's coming next. Violence. He doesn't go easy on his smart asses, I'll give him that. Mystic arts focuses on Webster, One of my favorite authors. His books are hilarious and a fun ride start to finish, while still managing to pull an emotional response from me every time. Mystic Arts is a stand alone and it features another lead character who does not know when to SHUT THE HELL UP. I can't tell you how many times I've cringed as one of Huston's characters runs off at the mouth, because I know what's coming next. Violence. He doesn't go easy on his smart asses, I'll give him that. Mystic arts focuses on Webster, a lost soul who takes on a job with a crime scene/biohazard clean-up crew. At first he seems like a sarcastic slacker, but as the book progresses you're given little pieces of his heart delivered like presents. One thing I enjoyed, a nice touch - each chapter begins with an unusual quote from within the coming chapter. It was fun coming across those phrases and how different the meaning became sometimes, once in context. This was an especially amusing read for me as I've worked in the cleaning industry for 7 years now as an account manager and we encounter some crazy things at times. Discarded sex toy pick-up needed in a parking lot - check. Afterbirth clean-up at an Exxon - check. The stories are endless. This book reminds me of the indie movie Sunshine Cleaning but crazier and grittier. I would also recommend his vampire noir series, which begins with Already Dead. I loved every one of those.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey

    An unusual book; more a tale of redemption than crime fiction. Written in a relatively spare style mostly composed of dialogue it takes a while to unfold. The main character appears at first glance to be a bum sponging off of Chev, a tatoo artist and nipple piercer. We first meet him pulling a nipple taut so it can be pierced. The purchaser of this service Dot, ultimately becomes the girlfriend of Chev. There is something dreadful in this very literate characters past that has some way caused a An unusual book; more a tale of redemption than crime fiction. Written in a relatively spare style mostly composed of dialogue it takes a while to unfold. The main character appears at first glance to be a bum sponging off of Chev, a tatoo artist and nipple piercer. We first meet him pulling a nipple taut so it can be pierced. The purchaser of this service Dot, ultimately becomes the girlfriend of Chev. There is something dreadful in this very literate characters past that has some way caused a real fear of buses. He is hired by Po Sin a large gentlemen who runs the peculiar business of cleaning up the gore and viscera and gross products that occur after death. Somehow our friend gets involved with Soledad, the daughter of a smuggler who blew his brains out. While helping her out of a peculiar situation with her half brother Jaimie and a felon named Talbot, Soledad is kidnapped and our character has to find a can full of almonds and supply them to Harris, Talbot's Uncle. The meandering style ofthe author is a little slow to develop bt my sense is that its real and thebook is real as well and I liked how the plot developed.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    I had read Charlie Huston's Hank Thompson trilogy, an entertaining and fast-paced story about a man and a wrong place / wrong time plot. They are quite good. So I decided to look into another one of his books, The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death, a stand alone novel about a crime-scene cleanup guy and a job that goes wrong. I liked it at first, but unfortunately it just didn't hold my attention. It's basically just a lot of vulgar conversations between different assholes calling each o I had read Charlie Huston's Hank Thompson trilogy, an entertaining and fast-paced story about a man and a wrong place / wrong time plot. They are quite good. So I decided to look into another one of his books, The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death, a stand alone novel about a crime-scene cleanup guy and a job that goes wrong. I liked it at first, but unfortunately it just didn't hold my attention. It's basically just a lot of vulgar conversations between different assholes calling each other names. Sure, it has glimpses of some great stuff, but ultimately I feel it would make a better Tarantino-esque film than a quickly-read novel. Not much tension in the written word. But: I will still check out another Huston novel somewhere down the road.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Larry

    Maybe one of the best "guy" books I've ever read/listened to. Laugh-out-loud funny from page one! But this is a novel with deep hidden meanings and lessons that sneak up on you at the end and really makes you think. It is a credit to Huston that he was able to carry off the whole thing and make it so fun. One of my Top 5 books of the past 20 yrs! It is a "buddy movie" book, a mystery, a comedy, a coming of age book, a family relations book, a PTSD book, and a book of gangsters. And I still haven Maybe one of the best "guy" books I've ever read/listened to. Laugh-out-loud funny from page one! But this is a novel with deep hidden meanings and lessons that sneak up on you at the end and really makes you think. It is a credit to Huston that he was able to carry off the whole thing and make it so fun. One of my Top 5 books of the past 20 yrs! It is a "buddy movie" book, a mystery, a comedy, a coming of age book, a family relations book, a PTSD book, and a book of gangsters. And I still haven't described it adequately. Synopsis: Webster is a former teacher with "issues". Down to his last few bucks and wearing out the patience of his best (and only) friend, Web takes a job cleaning up crime scenes (after all, somebody has to mop up the blood and wipe the brains off the walls, right?). Soon his previously predictable and safe routine is a thing of the past as he finds himself beaten up and involved in some shady (and illegal) actions trying to save someone who possibly has blood on her hands. And along the way, maybe Web can find a way to live again... Charlie Huston hasn't written anything but great novels (with one exception). This stand-alone novel is a superior audio experience and should be in any and all audiophiles' library. I have listened to Mystic Arts at least once every year and it is fresh and new each time. It is just that interesting, fun, and well written! Mystic Arts receives a lot of criticism for vulgar language. It does have a fair amount of cussing but no more than you would find in any close knit group of guys (think military squad or construction crew). And what those reviewers ignore is that THERE IS A REASON for the vulgarity. I'm not going to ruin it with spoilers but, if you are paying attention, it is revealed about halfway into the book . But more than that, one of Charlie Huston's strengths is the incredible dialogues and interactions of the characters. Mystic Arts is the epitome of witty dialogue and that close friends call each other "a**holes" is simply realistic from my experience. This is not Pride and Prejudice, after all, and doesn't pretend to be... And for those who say the main character is abrasive and unlikable, you are correct. And that is how he is SUPPOSED to be! Webster (the protagonist) is exactly the way he is supposed to be for a reason and it is important that he be that way. Think "sub-plots" and "deeper meanings" (can't be more specific w/o spoilers). An alternative title to this masterpiece might be "Family and the Ways They F*@k Us Up". The narration was superb. Characters' voices were unique and the narrator contributed greatly to the ambiance of the story. His timing and nuanced portrayal of the characters were instrumental in making this wonderful story so damn funny. I can not recommend this audiobook highly enough. Listen to this and before you know it, you will be frantically searching for all of the other C. Huston stuff you can get your hands on. You won't be disappointed (except for "Skinner"; it just didn't do it for me). CH has said in interviews that there will probably be a sequel to Mystic Arts but, while I would be the first to snatch it up, Mystic Arts doesn't really need a sequel for closure (if you were leary of getting caught up in a series and waiting impatiently a year for each subsequent book because there is so many loose ends {think "Dresden}).

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Castellanos

    I don't typically abandon a book becuase I like to give it a chance and I really tried to push through the first 100 or so pages of this novel, but I just gave up at that point. I'm sorry, but this book seriously got on my nerves. I had no problem at all with the graphic scenes, in fact they were probably the only part of the book I found interesting because reading about ANYTHING ELSE that didn't focus on the characters was a sweet release from the frustration of putting up with such obnoxious, I don't typically abandon a book becuase I like to give it a chance and I really tried to push through the first 100 or so pages of this novel, but I just gave up at that point. I'm sorry, but this book seriously got on my nerves. I had no problem at all with the graphic scenes, in fact they were probably the only part of the book I found interesting because reading about ANYTHING ELSE that didn't focus on the characters was a sweet release from the frustration of putting up with such obnoxious, shallow, and incredibly unlikable characters. I have no problem with explicit language and a reader does not always need a likeable character to enjoy a story, but this book pulled it off horrendously if that's what it was attempting. I despised Web for his terrible attitude and inability to take anything seriously. Occasionally, I found myself wondering if a 16 year old boy had written themselves into a book and created all the dialogue. I just had the urge to punch this protagonist until I couldn't take it anymore and finally closed the book. The supporting characters aren't that much better either with the unbelievable dialogue that plagued this book along with how artificial they all felt. I'm giving it two stars only because I actually liked the format of the dialogue along with the graphic scenes. I found myself half interested for once when Web arrived at those points in his job. When I look back on it I'm not really surprised that I liked that aspect since the main reason I was drawn to this book was because I was very curious to read a story with a main character who had such a dark/morbid job to pay the bills. I wish I had a physical copy with me so I could really pinpoint everything that annoyed me, but I checked this book out from my local library and returned it a while ago. Yet, even reading the title brings back all the anger I felt over it. I'm also already aware that apparently the plot finally kicks off about 200 (?) pages in or just further along than where I abandoned it, but I couldn't force myself to continue any longer. I was excited to read this book but was so disappointed. I noticed the praise this book has gotten from reviews and I'm honestly glad those readers loved it. Unfortunately, I strongly disliked almost everything about it. bummer. Guess it just didn't sit well with me.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sasha Gusev

    Let's be honest, the best part about this book is the title. Huston writes like Palahniuk if Palahniuk actually cared about his characters - no "transgressive" anarchy here, but plenty of the usual gore and sex and violence. And like Palahniuk he's perfect for a long flight: the story is digestible, a page-turner, and it reads like something seriously worth your time. Until the ending, that is, when you land and realize that it was all just a set-up for an author who wants to say a lot but reall Let's be honest, the best part about this book is the title. Huston writes like Palahniuk if Palahniuk actually cared about his characters - no "transgressive" anarchy here, but plenty of the usual gore and sex and violence. And like Palahniuk he's perfect for a long flight: the story is digestible, a page-turner, and it reads like something seriously worth your time. Until the ending, that is, when you land and realize that it was all just a set-up for an author who wants to say a lot but really has nothing to say. Probably the best barometer for this book is the fact that Charlie Huston has purchased the domain name "pulpnoir.com" (which just redirects "charliehuston.com", by the way). If you think this is a cool bit of counter-cultural branding (as certain New York Times book reviewers did) then the novel is probably just right for you; if you think it's just a cheap grab at two genres that deserve more respect than a web-site forward, well, buyer beware.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Terri Light

    Have you ever read a book you hate to love? This was some wild ride right out of a Coen Brothers film (and we are talking Barton Fink and Fargo, not Raising Arizona). Absurd characters, people that itch at you like gnats, mosquitoes, and a couple of big creepy crawlies appear as this story unfolds in front of your eyes like a car accident. There are some dead people, well at least what is left of them, when the members of LA's Clean Team arrive to sanitize the scene. But who the characters are a Have you ever read a book you hate to love? This was some wild ride right out of a Coen Brothers film (and we are talking Barton Fink and Fargo, not Raising Arizona). Absurd characters, people that itch at you like gnats, mosquitoes, and a couple of big creepy crawlies appear as this story unfolds in front of your eyes like a car accident. There are some dead people, well at least what is left of them, when the members of LA's Clean Team arrive to sanitize the scene. But who the characters are and how they get into this mess of gang wars, stolen property, family drama, and a late night tattoo parlor is a worthy tale. It lost a star at the end when things were wrapped up a bit too tightly. A story this good deserved to stay flapping in the breeze like a half closed grocery bag on an open-car-window day. If you have a very strong stomach for some very twisted scenes, give it a try. The morbid humor is worth the time.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jerrika Rhone

    10% Done: So once upon a time I actually WANTED to work crime scene cleanup and to be honest the desire always lingered. How wrong I am lol. Not for a million dollars. 28% Done: The amount of detail regarding his father is unnecessary and makes me dislike the book. Like....who cares? Dropped from 4 star to 2. 45% Done: Bored. I wanted to read the antics of a crime scene cleaner, instead I get the story of some sad rich kid that hate's his life. Ugh, I may not finish this one. Holy sh*t 55% Done: So 10% Done: So once upon a time I actually WANTED to work crime scene cleanup and to be honest the desire always lingered. How wrong I am lol. Not for a million dollars. 28% Done: The amount of detail regarding his father is unnecessary and makes me dislike the book. Like....who cares? Dropped from 4 star to 2. 45% Done: Bored. I wanted to read the antics of a crime scene cleaner, instead I get the story of some sad rich kid that hate's his life. Ugh, I may not finish this one. Holy sh*t 55% Done: So I'm going to take back my initial review because...well I had no idea. I was not expecting the story line to be...this. It all makes sense, I was wrong, sheesh man. A little Chris Moore with out the execution but so far not as bad as first thought. Ugh, I just have no words. When done it feels the backstories have no real meaning to the current events going on. I liked some bits and pieces, disliked others. I don't know, I feel...taken advantage of.

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