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The first-person narrator is a social media undertaker, laying to rest the online presence of the recently deceased. As he says himself, it’s basically a desk job.
So, are we stuck with a lead character who stares at a computer screen all day, like half the working population?
Not on your Nelly! Mr O’Duffy does the decent thing. He pretty well jettisons Facebook and looks back to Nineteen Thirties/Forties computer-free LA for inspiration. The narrator turns out to be very much the world-weary, wisecracking PI in everything but job title. He’s a downtown sort of guy, with a downtown office. It’s probably in the Bible somewhere that an alluring broad must walk in through the door (on which his name is etched into the glass -- Kendall Barber). There’s something fishy about her story. Our hero is reluctant to take her on as a client, but he needs the money. Soon after, we meet the meathead thug who’s role it is to dish out mindless violence and a slobbish, cynical police detective with an ambiguous attitude to our hero.
Down the years, I’ve seen most of the films, read some Chandler and Hammet, etc. and watched every episode of Columbo at least twice. If you’re old enough, you get a nose for the signals (or clues, if you like), whether you want one or not. And so, I was able to spot two of the major twists in The Obituarist from a fair distance. As, indeed, would most of my peers. But then, Mr O’Duffy is surely aiming for a younger, more culturally innocent audience. And in fact, I think the book works really well as YA fiction. Smart, literate YA fiction, that is. The ideas are clever and the narrator’s flip humour will hit the spot for twenty somethings. It goes along at a cracking pace and illustrates why people had more fun before the rise of Twitter & Co. Bloch, and maybe even Clemens would approve.
A well-written and entertaining piece.