Thursday, 26 May 2011

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sausages by Tom Holt

It feels as if this book has a cast of thousands - appropriately enough, since it's one of the ways in which the writing reflects the book's structure and theme, which unfolds gradually, although the reader begins to suspect what's going on well before the characters do.

Polly is a conveyancer for property developer Mr Huon. Her brother is a musician. When Polly notices that strange things are happening in her office - including the appearance of the word HELP in her diary - she turns to her brother for assistance, but he's preoccupied by his own problems. These began after he found a pencil sharpener in the pocket of a coat he'd collected from the dry cleaners. He tries to return it, but the dry cleaners has disappeared. Actually, we learn, the shop has moved, rather to the surprise of its owners, but they soon learn to adapt. Oh, and there's something nasty happening in the downstairs loo. It happens every day, at the same time. There's quite a few disappearances, in fact - piglets, people, a housing estate - and appearances can, of course, be deceiving.

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sausages
is familiar fare from Tom Holt, right down to the amusing title - if you know and like his work you're on safe ground, because this is a good one (for me, at least, he can be just a little hit or miss, though there are more hits than misses). You're not going to get to know the characters as well as in some, because it's not a very linear story, but he's good at creating people you like at once - here, the white and black knights are a good example, you're immediately caught up in their dilemma, and in how it links in to the rest of the story.

What all this reminds me of most  - even down to the title - is Douglas Adams. Holt has been moving in that direction for some time - ever since, I think, The Portable Door (which is very good). I don't mean to imply that his writing is derivative - it's not, his voice is quite definitely his own - but that the philosophical bent feels like Adams, and the explorations of the possible permutations of a recognisable universe. Because it is recognisable - people react in familiar ways, so that it's easy to imagine yourself in place of Polly, or of Kevin who suddenly finds that he's a chicken. (If you were ever curious to know how that would feel, look no further!) Okay, Kevin's no Gregor Samsa - it's more Chicken Run than Metamorphosis - but Holt's not aiming for profundity, just fun with a little wry social comment on the side. And he does that very well.

This was a review copy from NetGalley, read on my Kindle. I downloaded it just before that option was disabled. I'm very happy to see that it's now back - thanks, NetGalley, that's good news.


  1. I've never tried Tom Holt; as you know I love his mum's books! :) I enjoyed all Douglas Adams books, though, and remember laughing constantly while reading Dirk Gently! There's going to be a Dirk Gently series on UK television soon. I wonder what it will be like...

  2. I've got a Tom Holt book in my TBR (The walled orchard) which I've been meaning to read for years. Sounds like I'll really enjoy his books.

  3. Ah, it's not a series, but a one-off. Still...