Incomprehensible horrors from beyond are going to devour our world but that’s no excuse to get all emotional about it. Morag Murray works for the secret government organisation responsible for making sure the apocalypse goes as smoothly and as quietly as possible.
In her first week on the job, Morag has to hunt down a man-eating starfish, solve a supernatural murder and, if she’s got time, prevent her own inevitable death.
The first book in a new comedy series by the creators of ‘Clovenhoof’, Oddjobs is a sideswipe at the world of work and a fantastical adventure featuring amphibian wannabe gangstas, mad old cat ladies, ancient gods, apocalyptic scrabble, fish porn, telepathic curry and, possibly, the end of the world before the weekend.
Published by Pigeon Park Press and provided to me by the authors in exchange for a review. I’ve read a number of their books before including Beelzebelle (part of the Clovenhoof series), Hellzapoppin and Godsquad. Oddjobs is very similar (but not identical) in terms of the style of humour to Clovenhoof, but because it’s the start of a new series it’s subtly different.
It starts a break-in at the Vault – an underground facility beneath the new Library Of Birmingham that stores artificats aligned with the coming apocalypse. Meanwhile Morag is on her way on the overnight Calendonian Sleeper to Birmingham. She is being “transferred” to the West Midlands office, officially because they are under-resourced, but unofficially because of killing one of the August Handmaidens of Prein the day before.
The story is split across the week, where very little sleeping gets done, and where sleep is usually replaced by copious drinking of alcohol and eating curries. It takes place in various parts of Birmingham, some real, some not (and some re-appropriated for different uses). I started reading the book whilst sitting in an indie sushi restaurant in Grand Central Station – so it did lead to the weird feeling of whether some people I know would appear in the book (they didn’t). Travel around the city for Morag is usually done with the help of a fleet of wordless taxi drivers, who know where she needs to be, often before she does, because of being mind-controlled by one of the aliens.
The world building is good, with little time spent on exposition – mainly about how the team were set up in order to make the coming apocalypse more acceptable. There are various different teams and I only hope it’s Morag’s sleepiness that she’s not up to speed in taking part in the office “Bullshit Bingo” during the meeting with the marketing department. Some of the baddies are disgusting enough – the description of Ingrid dealing with the poisoned Yo-Morgantus is suitably unappealing as is the sex life one of the August Handmaidens of Prein.
Have to note that I did spot one red herring perhaps a little early, but I have read a lot of Golden Age crime, as well as watched enough Buffy the vampire slayer to know that these things happen. The execution of the event (if not the event itself) was new and novel enough and in keeping with the rest of the story. It’s not got the same slapstick humour as the Clovenhoof series, but still has a certain level of surrealness that will make it appealing to particular readers.
About the Authors
I did an interview with Heide and Iain a few months ago, ahead of their Beezebelle book and it can be found here.