Monday, September 23, 2019

The Portable Door

The Portable Door
by Tom Holt
Recommended Ages: 14+

I was reading this book during a weekend at my parents' house when I just had to read an excerpt aloud to my dad. After hearing it, and snatching the book out of my hand to read a bit more with his own eyes, he demanded that when I was done with it, I should give it to him. So, he's got it now, and as a result, I'm unable to quote verbatim from any of the passages that made me snicker, chuckle, giggle, snort and, at least a couple times, throw my head back in a roar of laughter.

Tom Holt is a new revelation to my dad, but not to me. I've even read one of the books in the series (J.W. Wells & Co.) of which this book is the first installment. So, I'm hardly surprised to find that he mixes magic with modern, everyday, urban life in a way that elicits both an occasional belly-laugh and a steady glow of amused appreciation. As this book begins, a young bloke named Paul Carpenter is facing a hopeless job interview for a company so mysterious, he's afraid to ask what they do. In spite of all the other applicants being better looking, well-rounded young professionals, he gets hired as a clerk along with a skinny girl named Sophie, whose personal habits are so repulsive that he instantly falls in love with her.

As they do boring, meaningless work together, Paul struggles to cope with his feelings for Sophie, while continuing to be completely hopeless at making love to a girl. Also, he learns that J.W. Wells & Co. is a firm that deals in magic. Business magic. Magic business. You get the drift. At first it's all harmless fun, dousing for bauxite deposits in aerial photos of the Australian outback. But things start to get crazy when the pair get locked in the office after hours and realize that the building is overrun – or rather, owned – by goblins. In an accelerating pace of wacky adventures, they use a magical door (the type that rolls up and fits in your inside pocket) to carry out a caper on which lives, not to mention the business, depend.

So, this is actually the first of seven novels featuring the J.W. Wells firm, of which I previously and unknowingly read Book 7, Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sausages. The second book in the series is In Your Dreams, followed in order by Earth, Air, Fire and Custard; You Don't Have to Be Evil to Work Here, But It Helps; The Better Mousetrap and May Contain Traces of Magic. Other Tom Holt titles include Goatsong, The Walled Orchard, four YouSpace novels, Expecting Someone Taller, Who's Afraid of Beowulf?, Grailblazers, Faust Among Equals, Djinn Rummy, Paint Your Dragon, Snow White and the Seven Samurai, Falling Sideways, Little People, Barking, The Management Style of the Supreme Beings and, released as recently as Sept. 10, 2019, An Orc on the Wild Side. That's only a partial list, there. But I think the titles are representative of Holt's genre-mashing sense of humor. I look forward to reading many more of them.

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