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by Sean Doolittle
UglyTown Productions, June 2002
ISBN: 096634734X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

If you are in the mood for a book with black and zany humor and realistic quirky characters that touch your heart as well as exasperate from time to time, I have a deal for you. Dirt, a first novel, tells the story of Quince Bishop, lazy and unemployed, a drifter from one job to another, bright enough but uncommitted to anything. The book opens with the funeral of Marvin Waxman, a good friend of Quince. A self-professed group of eco-terrorists disrupt the funeral in the name of mahogany. The leader goes a step too far, climbing on the casket. Unable to stay there, he slid off and toppled the casket in the process.

These bizarre events propel Quince into a mystery which he is reluctantly forced to solve. With him on his adventure are his former girlfriend (many time) Melanie Roth and Maria Castenada, head of the organization the goons claim to represent. Maria is haunted by the funeral industry and the rackets they perpetrate on an unsuspecting public. We also meet the slimy head of the funeral home/cemetery, Joel Moss, and his two grounds workers, ex-cons both. Billy Guilder is a pathetic little man who is happiest puttering around the hearse and the grounds and at moments he is a poignant figure. Carl Rosen is a hard-core scofflaw and he might even be dangerous if he were a little brighter.

Mix all these elements with comical and at times absurd activity and you have a real winner. For a first novel, this is an excellent book. It does not fit nicely into any niche; it is sui generis and as such is well worth your time. The writing is praiseworthy and never pulls the reader out of the story. And the story is a good one with plenty to laugh about and abundant tension to freeze you to your chair. It is not a "who done it." You are going to figure that out pretty fast. It is more of a caper story with elements of suspense as well. It is quite clear the author has a vivid imagination and a command of the English language to go with it.

As an added bonus there is a great deal of information about the funeral industry and ways that the big conglomerates who now own most of the funeral homes can defraud and bamboozle their customers, especially since they encounters them at a time of great grief when most people really are unable to make intelligent decisions. While you are laughing, you will also be nursing a righteous indignation at the scum bags who would fob off a cheap casket on a grieving family who is paying for an expensive one or lie to the mourners about costs or take money for services not performed.

Truly this is a book that deserves your attention. I laughed and cried my way through it and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Reviewed by Sally A. Fellows, February 2002

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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