Vincent Holland-Keen, The Office of Lost and Found, Fox Spirit Books, 2016.
The Office of Lost and Found wasn't what I expected. But I lost expectations and found a couple of great characters in an unusual world.
Thomas Locke is a kind of detective. "A kind" because most often he just wanders around until he finds what he has been hired to retrieve. His unusual and fearsome partner, Lafarge, takes care of what is to be lost. One day, Veronica Drysdale comes into his office and asks him to find her husband. Pretty soon, both will team up to solve cases full of the weird and the bizarre.
The length of The Office of Lost and Found was a surprise to me: at 400 pages, it's not a light weight. But pretty soon the length becomes clear: the novel could actually be a collection of short stories, with each chapter devolved to a different case. Except that it's not really, because each case makes us learn more about Veronica, Thomas and their bizarre world, and leads to a novella-length final chapter.
In a sense, The Office of Lost and Found could be read as a collection of urban fantasy noir stories with an underlying arc.
Many chapters are a satire of our current society, whether it is about bad parenting, greed, abusive relationships, consumerism... But the novel is also an unabashed urban fantasy, mixing old classics and originality whether it comes to creatures, artefacts or situations. The writing is creative and gives life to the satire or the surreal.
The characters gain in depth because of the unusual format: Veronica starts as a stereotypical 50s noir pin-up but, pretty soon, the stories reveal her background and she changes as her own case is being slowly resolved. In the same way, Thomas first appears as some sort of Dirk Gently with strong hints of Sam Spade before becoming something more than just a pale imitation. Their relationship grows as the book progresses, until the very touching final words. This relationship may well be my favourite thing in the novel, even above reincarnated toasters, meddlesome cats, pessimism intolerant vines or roadworks worships.
In the first two third of the book, many characters appear then disappear, before coming back in the final chapter. It can be a bit confusing because you end up with many characters you met 200 or 300 pages ago, but it also leads to an ending that tie all the loose ends in an epic battle.
If you're looking for a long read that can also be read as a collection and if you want urban fantasy with added satire, then The Office of Lost and Found will be the perfect pick for you.
A free copy was received in exchange for an honest review on Amazon but with no obligation attached to review it on The Middle Shelf.
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I only review stories I have liked even if my opinion may be nuanced. It doesn't apply for the "Novels published before 1978" series of blog posts.
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