Thomas Hocknell [Twitter @TomAngel1] already writes a funny and entertaining blog so I was very curious to read his debut novel, The Life Assistance Agency from Urbane publications (through NetGalley in return for an honest review). And I wasn’t disappointed. Combining the mystery and intrigue of The Da Vinci Code with a wacky, off beat sense of humour reminiscent of the great P G Wodehouse it’s hilarious from start to finish, with inspired one liners that catch you unawares. Laugh out loud funny.
‘People who’d baulk at chasing fairies happily claim to see angels, as though larger wingspan makes them more credible.’
At the start of the novel Ben Ferguson-Cripps, a wannabe author, has written his first novel Mirrors and Lies which attacks the accepted trio of religion the occult, and popular psychology. Ben’s father was a drunk and has played little part in his life; his mother, now dead, was a seaside fortune-teller. Ben is desperate to promote his novel but it’s not going well. In fact it’s going so badly that his agent dismisses him and wants her money back.
He turns to the Life Assistance Agency set up by his old friend Scott Wildblood for help. The LAA promises a bewildering array of support: from private investigations to life advice; and from fear of death minimalisation to swimming lessons, Feng Shui and Bonsai trimming. Success guaranteed.
Scott offers Ben a job with the agency and from here a series of unlikely adventures start: the search for a missing husband lead the dynamic duo from Mortlake via Marble Arch to Poland and Prague. With a cast of mysterious heavies; magical stones and crystals; alchemy and angels it’s a hugely enjoyable romp across Europe with some sections told from 400 year old diaries and letters.
There are twists and turns to satisfy all readers, and the unexpected ending is great. I found the ‘historical’ sections less engaging and perhaps a little too long but that didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of this novel. Definitely one to recommend. I’m looking forward to the next novel by Thomas Hocknell.