To call Vincent Holland-Keen’s debut novel The Office of Lost & Found merely “strange” is an understatement of epic proportions. Of course, in my world strange means creative, original, enchanting, challenging, and mind-blowing, which means the über strange of The Office of Lost & Found makes for an amazing read; one of my Top 10 of 2011 in fact.
It’s kind of difficult to explain a book that damn near requires you to keep a scratch pad or dry erase board handy in order to keep people and plot points straight, but I’ll give it a go.
Thomas Locke is not just a detective, he’s a detective capable of finding anything, anywhere, no matter how long lost or how well hidden. He is the “found” half of The Office of Lost & Found, a place that has no fixed location, but rather metaphysically migrates – along with Locke and all the contents of the office – to wherever it happens to be needed.
Locke’s partner is a… well, we’ll call him a man, named Lafarge. Lafarge brings new meaning to the term shadowy, literally only appearing as a tall, dark figure cloaked deep in shadows. He is the “lost” half of The Office of Lost & Found, and you better be sure you really want something lost before seeking his help, because things Lafarge loses stay lost. Permanently.
When Veronica Drysdale’s husband goes missing she hires Locke to find him. Little could she have imagined she’d learn that far more important things had been lost to her, things she didn’t even know were missing and that she’ll only be able to reclaim by making a deal – against Locke’s advice – with the mysterious Lafarge.
And with that setup, boys and girls, we’re off down the rabbit hole into a world in which people can be reincarnated as inanimate objects (like the toaster named Leonard who communicates by burning messages into the toast), monsters really do live under children’s beds, a Ministry of Checks and Balances exists to keep order in the reality we know as Earth, a sort of reality-bending black hole known as the Conjunction blurs the lines between dimensions, and a pan-dimensional entity called the Umivatoré (which appears alternately as a machine, a horror movie worthy massive man-eating plant, swarm of locusts, etc. depending upon its plane of existence) seeks to become the God of all universes.
Fueled by a cast of wonderfully quirky and endearing characters, The Office of Lost & Found unfolds as several parallel, if time-bending, plots that you need to take on faith will eventually each take a turn that puts them on a collision course to bring the overall story arc to resolution. Along the way you need to pay close attention, and even then you might not immediately understand what’s going on, but that’s part of what makes The Office of Lost & Found such a fresh and amazing read; it’s as far from predictable, formulamatic, paint-by-numbers writing as one can possibly get.
Quite simply, The Office of Lost & Found is a deliciously demented, exquisitely written, massive dose of humor-infused creative madness which easily made my Top 10 Reads of 2011.
The Office of Lost & Found is available from Fox Spirit Books (ISBN: 978-1909348875).