The Office of Lost and Found by Vincent Holland-Keen
Thomas Locke can find anything. You know the hurricane that hit a while back? Word is he found the butterfly that started it. So, when a desperate Veronica Drysdale hires Locke to find her missing husband, it makes perfect sense. Except the world of Thomas Locke doesn’t make sense. It puts monsters under the bed, makes stars fall from the sky and leads little children to worship the marvels of road-works. This world also hides from Veronica a past far darker and stranger than she could ever have imagined. To learn the truth Veronica is going to have to lose everything. And that’s where Locke’s shadowy business partner Lafarge comes in….
If you took Dirk Gently’s Detective Agency, added Jessica Rabbit with memory loss, an abusive husband and a pechant for no-nonsense violence, dropped in a Tall Dark Mysterious Figure With Hidden Powers, salted it with Cthulu-mythos, Sherlock Holmes, a random number generator, assorted ‘normal’ things including a toaster and direct mail, and touched it up with Monty Python…you’d probably have something approximating The Office of Lost And Found. Quirky, weird, mysterious and rather surreal.
A word of warning to start with: if you read the first chapter or two and don’t have the faintest clue what’s going on, that’s normal. If you find yourself annoyed by this, then stop reading; it doesn’t get any better. If you’re happy to be entirely lost and just ambling onwards, then keep reading!
The first half of the book is individual stories, keeping the odd figure of Thomas Locke at their centre. He’s a detective of sorts; he can find anything. And his partner, Lafarge – he can lose anything. Between them, they run The Office of Lost and Found, a mysterious organisation that turns up anywhere. And when Veronica hires Thomas to find her husband, it kicks off a series of loosely-connected stories and missions that slowly become linked as the book progresses, through the power of reincarnated husbands (aka. a toaster called Leonard), monsters under the bed, pessimists and roadworks…
I enjoyed the beginning of this – the stories are odd, with points of amusement and tangents that never go where you expect them to. Nothing about the plot is predictable, although to be honest, Thomas isn’t predictable – which is sort of the point, and what makes him so entertaining. I love the uncertainty of Lafarge, and Veronica’s directness, in wonderful contrast to Thomas’ vague wander through the world.
However, I admit I found the end confusing. The threads of plot do run through the entire book, and by the final third I could see where they’d come from…but I found them hard to follow, and found the roundabout conclusion hard. I was trying to work out who was on what side, what actions were making a difference, what changed things. I felt that I’d forgotten things or people, or missed something that wasn’t told. It does draw everything together, but I honestly think I preferred the feeling of short stories, of random ideas and things that didn’t make any sense and yet make just enough to make an amusing and coherent story.
I think this is another one of those “It’s me” books. I’d highly recommend it to anyone – read the first three chapters, at least, and then you’ll either be hooked or have an interesting expression on your face. If you’re hooked, then you’ll love it. If you’ve got the interesting expression, try something else.
NB. If you liked it, try Annabel Scheme and the rest of Robin Sloane’s writing.
Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.