The Portable Door by Tom Holt


The Portable Door opens with the two unlikeliest of clerk candidates landing a position at the JW Wells company of 22 St Mary Axe. Our lead character, Paul Carpenter, is drifting through life with no particular family ties and his female interest, Sophie, is a hard-nosed, idealistic character whose outward treatment of people masks a reluctance to engage emotively. She's actually quite irritating and thankfully Holt packs her off to Hollywood in the sequel.

The novel concerns the first few months of the pair as they work for a company utterly unlike your usual one. This company is a conglomerate of magicians and enchanters, fey-folk and goblins who cheerfully look after the supernatural side of earth's life whilst making a tidy fortune on the side.

After spending weeks doing filing the truth is gradually revealed as they work for Mr Tanner scrying bauxite mines, then down in the cellars cataloguing miscellaneous items (usually from famous people), then Humphrey Wells, Van Spee, Suslowicz, Rick Wormtoter and Judy Castel'Bianco. Paul finds a portable door that allows him to travel through both time and space which he uses out of boredom, all the while trying to decide if he fancies Sophie or not.

Inevitably the door gets him in some trouble and he finds himself in a Schroedinger's room where two of the company personnel have been locked for ages.

After dealing with the ever persistent and seductive Mrs Tanner (goblin by night, voluptuous receptionist by day) he and Sophie end up foiling a century long office politics plot with the use of a somewhat more-than-meets-the-eye stapler and an irreversible love potion.

Having read Holt's historical novels (highly recommended to any fan of the genre) I decided to have a go through his more prolific fantasy pen and I have not come away disappointed. The only flaw in this opener was the character of Sophie but as she's gone in the next I'm cheerfully reading that at some pace.

It's brilliantly inventive, narrated at a careless speed that make the plot plausible and cheerfully answers the question as to what actually goes on in the office once every human has left. Read it.

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