Charlie Huston’s stand-alone novel The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death is about cleaning up, physically and metaphorically. However, despite the title, there is nothing ‘mystic’ about this story.
A traumatic event leaves a teacher named Web Goodhue emotionally scarred. Web falls into a slump, mooching off his friend’s and family’s money while at the same alienating them with his recently acquired bad attitude.
Throwing Web a bone, a friend offers him a job as a cleaner of crime scenes - we’re talking blood and guts and the removal thereof. But instead of delving into the world of forensics solving crimes, Web gets caught up in one (almond smuggling, of all things).
The way Huston captures real-life dialog is mostly accurate, even though the banter is often unnaturally witty and profane. The lead character is an unsympathetic jerk. Though you can blame this on the traumatic event he experienced (which I won’t reveal), the “f*** this” and “f*** that” grows tiresome pretty fast.
Plot is well paced with gritty scenes and dialog.
Scenes and dialog a little too gritty (and unnecessarily profane) at times. Lead character is annoying, until the end.
The Bottom Line:
Mystic Arts is a middle-of-the-road thriller that occasionally shows signs of greatness. However, the author ignores those signs and plows straight ahead. The story is not terrible, but there are better uses of your reading time. I would especially skip this book if you don’t like the (over) use of the f-word.