Kendall Barber, the digital-life “obituarist” who cleans up and closes the online accounts of the recently-departed, is a real piece of crap human being, as amply demonstrated in the first two volumes of this series, The Obituarist and The Obituarist II: Dead Men’s Data.
But he’s trying to be better, and in the third and final instalment of Patrick O’Duffy’s humorous modern noir series, Barber’s almost – almost – getting his life together. Well, at least he’s in a sound relationship and he has the grudging respect of one or two acquaintances, even if everyone else he knows hates his guts.
But his adopted home of Port Virtue can’t abide prolonged periods of peace and stability, especially not where Kendall Barber is concerned, and things head south quickly. Before long Barber’s executing a will and investigating a murder, while being threatened, run over, tortured and blown up. And while he sets fire to every human connection with an endless stream of smartarse commentary and reflexive lying, Barber’s wondering if maybe it’s not time to give it all away and skip town for good. But Port Virtue isn’t having that either, and Barber’s many enemies are not planning to let him walk away when they could be kneecapping both legs instead.
First of all, DYA is probably the best entry in the Obituarist series. It’s funny as hell, with a reckless pace, an energetic cast of (mostly egregiously awful) characters, and Barber’s breathlessly hilarious narration all in service of a solid crime story. The action is deeply rooted in Barber’s skeletons coming back to bite him, so this final entry in the series might not be the place to start, but it’s enough to know that he’s an unlikeable garbage fire with a razor wit, computer skills, and an unerring gift for antagonising dangerous people. The history of broken relationships and hospital visits is self-explanatory.
I am a fan of Patrick O’Duffy’s off-kilter, quippy writing and this long-awaited conclusion to the Obituarist series doesn’t disappoint. Its violent mayhem and touching humanity put a very satisfying endcap on what has been a fun series. You’d be forgiven for thinking that I would say that, seeing as the author has named one of the villains after me (offered to the highest bidder in support of a fundraiser for the Victorian fire services during the summer). But take it from me – I would love this book even if it were not dragging my name through the mud.