Thursday, 21 July 2011

The Office of Lost and Found by Vincent Holland-Keen

Thomas Locke can find anything and works for someone who communicates with him via messages written on slips of paper.
Veronica wants him to find her husband and she willing to pay him the generous price of not shooting him to do it.
This is how we meet our two main protagonists.

As Thomas delves into Veronica’s life and her husband, he discovers a company that sell items that only cost certain parts of your psyche.
Just as you start to think, “This is getting interesting”, Thomas has solved the case and Veronica is free. For a given value of free.

That was the first shock, for me. The first half of this book is taken up by a number of smaller cases, almost short stories, that progress Thomas and Veronica’s relationship and delve into the weird world of The Office of Lost and Found.

It’s only as all the threads from the first half come together after the pair save a child and banish/kill Thomas’ employer (a place most stories would end) in the second half that the story really got going for me. I found that restarting with a new case every so often left the start of this novel very stop-start. It took me a good while to get into it.
It didn’t help that Veronica is almost defiantly unsympathetic in many ways. But it’s her caring heart that keeps you just interested enough in her to keep going.

Once we’ve set up all of the major players and underpinned that this reality is maybe just a little bit off from our own, then TOOLAF really kicks itself into a high gear and gets running.
Gods, children worshipping roadworks, the fate of everything, friendly monsters under the bed and just maybe the end of the world all come flying in with great speed to make the second every bit as engrossing as the first half was frustrating.

Thomas Locke is a fine entrant into the “weird detective” class. His methods are strange, and yet, if you’ve read Dirk Gently, quite familiar. Yes, this book is massively influenced by Douglas Adams’ quirky detective and it doesn’t really try to hide it. Instead Vincent Holland-Keen wears these influences on his sleeve and it’s all the better for it. He seems to have decided that there is room in the world for more than just Gently and his demented detective methods, and I’d have to agree.

The secondary characters are well drawn, Billy – the boy with monsters under his bed – gets the best deal of them all. But each character gets their moment to shine.

I enjoyed this book once the pieces were in place, it’s well worth the slight struggle past the necessary first half.
Definitely worth checking out.

The Office of Lost and Found can be purchased here