BOOK REVIEW The Better Mousetrap

By Tom Holt. The portable door’s open again…

Author: Tom Holt

Publisher: Orbit • 352 pages • £14.99

ISBN: 978-1-841-49503-3

Rating:

Just think of all the wonderful, useful, things you could do if you had a portable door. One you could keep in a cardboard tube and unroll at any time on any vertical surface – wall, side of a bus, advertising hoarding – step through, and find yourself wherever and whenever you wanted, sort of like the shop Mr Benn goes to, but without any change of clothes being required.

Well, that’s exactly what Frank Carpenter has (thanks to his parents), and how does he use it? By hiring out his services to stingy insurance companies, that’s how. If one of them has a particularly large claim they can’t wriggle out of paying, Frank’ll nip back in time, prevent the death, explosion or mishap and thus save the company’s coffers from depletion. Provided it doesn’t mess up the future too much, of course. Until he meets Emily the dragonslayer and falls for her... It seems that somebody is playing with her life using something even more powerful than his portable door. Yep, that’ll be the superior rodent-catching device of the title (metaphorical, of course).

In the fourth book featuring the magic firm of JW Wells (a company originally featured in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Sorcerer), Tom Holt ploughs his usual inventively entertaining furrow. There are some great twists and leaps of the imagination, and beautiful turns of phrase that make you both laugh out loud and stop and think – a difficult combination to carry off. And even if the portable door is a sometimes-too-handy get-out-of-jail-free card for Frank and co, Holt has the wit, the originality and the writing ability to get away with it.

Simon Withers

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