The Office of Lost and Found by Vincent Holland-Keen (pub. Anarchy Books.)
The Office of Lost and Found (TOOLF) is a dark comedy in the vein of Robert Rankin and Douglas Adams.
Thomas Locke has a talent for finding things. His boss, the dark shadowy figure that is Lafarge, is exceptionally good at making them disappear. But we’re not talking handbags, dogs and car keys here. Oh no. We’re talking people re-incarnated as toasters, the joy of childhood and the Gods themselves.
Throw into the mix Veronica Drysdale who hires Locke to find her missing husband Vincent and uncovers a lifetime of deceit and stolen emotions when her dishwasher innocuously breaks down.
TOOLF comes across as an amalgamation of a number of short stories all connected by Thomas and Veronica with Lafarge and the villainous Vincent as key supporting players throughout. We are carried along a wandering path where household goods and ornaments hold the secrets to our souls; our values and emotions used for purchase. This is dark pithy humour with plenty of the supernatural throughout and a smattering of horror (not too explicit, but definitely not one for the kids.)
There are some very good ideas in here and Holland-Keen is a solid writer with an excellent ability to build extreme characters and make them viable. Ideas such as the memekers, who stick hooked rods up your nose to steal your memories, are disturbing concepts in a nicely warped way. The creation of Gods of the mundane, brought into being through the power of belief (God of Direct Mailing, anyone?) is genius. Yet something didn’t quite click for me.
There’s just a bit too much going on at times. As stand-alone pieces the tales are very good so it was a shame that as a whole they didn’t fully gel for me. The structure makes it feel like a slightly disjointed collection of ideas being played with, using the central characters to drag it through to a conclusion. With the end drawing nigh there seemed to be a lot to pull together, which the author managed, to his credit, but I think a tighter book giving more focus to the final outcome would have worked much better for me as a reader.
All in all this is an incredibly original debut novel and I can see Vincent Holland-Keen carving a strong niche for himself as he progresses; his skill with a pen will be apparent to anyone who reads TOOLF. Overall I would say a good debut with some flashes of genius. I look forward with interest to the next offering from Mr Holland-Keen.
GS Rating: 3.5 out of 5