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Polly Mayer is an in-house lawyer for a property development company. Her brother Don is a jingle-writing musician. For whatever reason, these two siblings have been chosen to be the next pair of contestants in a multi-dimensional game designed to answer the question, “Which came first—the chicken or the egg?” Their first clue that something funny is going on is when Polly realizes that somebody has been drinking her coffee, answering her calls, and even doing some of her work. Then, when she goes to the dry cleaner’s shop to pick up her party dress, it’s disappeared. Not the dress; the shop.
Somehow this is mixed up with the strange history of Polly’s boss, Mr. Huos, who doesn’t know his own first name and whose first memory is waking up with a wad of cash and a magic brass ring. With this source of power, Mr. Huos learns to bend the laws of space-time in the service of an almighty real-estate scam. He simply keeps selling the same piece of land over and over, and keeps several teams of in-house lawyers working in the same time and space, without anybody noticing—until his brass ring gets lost at (you guessed it!) the dry cleaner’s.
Not coincidentally, it is when Don brings home his dry cleaning that funny things start to happen around him. The very hairs of his head become magical familiars. The annoying bloke upstairs (an amateur guitarist whose sister happens to be a real estate lawyer) disappears before his eyes, leading Don to believe he may have murdered him with a thought. As things grow even weirder around Don and Polly, the fate of reality increasingly depends on a sort of paranormal detective, whose specialties include staking vampires, unraveling mummies, and sorting out space-time anomalies.
Even this cool customer will find himself facing danger, doom, and disaster on a cosmic scale, as a refrigerator becomes a teleportation device, a multi-dimensional legal department becomes a penful of poultry, a pig discovers quantum physics, and a planned neighborhood becomes lost in a pocket universe. Two knights who have been forced to reenact the same duel five times a day since the middle ages mix with a middle-aged couple whose laundry business won’t stay put longer than 48 hours. And once again the author of Little People demonstrates his almost magical ability to pack a twinkle of charm, a wink of wit, and often a snort of laughter into every paragraph.
I would not be saying anything original if I were to compare Tom Holt to Douglas Adams; indeed, author Christopher Moore does so in a blurb quoted on the cover of this very book—and the genius therein is that some would probably also compare Tom Holt to Christopher Moore. But I’m not here to market the book; I’m only recommending it, as one satisfied reader to my big worldwide family of fellow book nuts who especially like to mix their fantasy with a bit of comedy and a savor of satire on the mundanity and inanity of modern life. Even in our success, we ourselves are often disappointing. And yet if we can think of ourselves as part of a weird story of magic (defined as science on which nobody has published a journal article yet), of infinite possible universes stacked like the layers of pastry in a baklava, of time travel and riddles and transfigurations and mysteries too bizarre for most people to deal with—why, the workaday world might just be easier to face.