Book Review: The Life Assistance Agency, by Thomas Hocknell

Publisher:   Urbane Publications

Publication date:   22nd September 2016

The Life Assistance Agency - MY REVIEW

The Life Assistance Agency by Thomas Hocknell 22.09.16Ben Fergusson-Cripps: owner of a half-cocked blog, the copyright to a book, and an unusual double-barrelled surname, is currently watching his life swirl down the pan after the launch of his literary debut, Mirrors and Lies. Just as the tome tries to debunk psychics and spiritually, all everyone else wants to do was debunk him and you can sense his nonchalant desperation from page one.

Quickly coming to terms that he needs a day job to prevent him eating out of dustbins, a business card from The Life Assistance Agency left on a pub table piques his interest. The company claims to offer solutions to all manner of calamities including the finding lost things, arranging coincidences, and bonsai trimming.

A desperate Ben finds himself in need of their ‘talents’ to turn his life around and visits an office he finds is manned by an old acquaintance who is delighted to clap eyes on him, even though the telephone is sitting in the middle of the floor and it looks like they should call their own help line and request immediate assistance.

When Ben enquired what life assistance agencies do, Scott Wildblood replied, “It’s like a detective agency without detectives.” That’s when Ben’s temporary career move took flight, with their first case to find a missing man from Mortlake. The trail of the eccentric University lecturer will take them from Kent to Krakow in a battered Saab, with nothing but Scott’s heart pills rattling around in the foot well to keep them on their toes.

On a road trip from hell, the not-very-dynamic-duo stay in flea pit hotels while stumbling across relics of historical or psychic significance. Each new destination draws them closer into the furtive subjects of Scrying and Alchemy until they find they are being tailed by hired hooligans courtesy of ‘The Society’, whose job it is to keep an eye on matters all things otherworldly to prevent members of the public accidently wading into dangerous waters. The manner in which Ben and Scott shake them in various escapades would be best left to village idiots in You Tube Videos!

A few inexplicable events later and sceptic Ben is contemplating the mockery of his own ‘Mystic Meg’ mother in his book. As 16th C ideals and morals merge with the present, he is lead to question his own beliefs and the suggestion that immortality is tangible (while wondering why a mysterious, intellectual man can continually whack his brow off everything and not become permanently concussed).

I was so immersed in this utterly bonkers reading experience I greedily devoured it in one sitting. There’s a cracking turn of events and it’s walloped in some brilliant one liners too. Undoubtedly, considerable attention has been paid to merging the past and the present which are brought alive by the frantic finesse of mystic mayhem, and a constant stream of curiosity that I found impossible to ignore.

Unquestionably quirky. Brilliantly barmy. Absolutely recommended.

Rating:  5/5

(I received a copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my unbiased review, with my thanks.)

The Life Assistance Agency - BOOK SUMMARY

(Courtesy of NetGalley)

Do you want to live forever? is THE question facing anyone pursuing immortality.

But what happens when eternal life is disappointing, and everyone around you keeps dying? Ben Ferguson-Cripps, a struggling writer with a surname that gets more attention than his creative endeavours, sets aside his literary ambitions to join the mysterious Life Assistance Agency.

Their first case is to trace a missing person with links to the Elizabethan angel-caller Dr John Dee. Pursued by a shadowy organisation – and the ghosts of Ben’s past – the trail leads through Europe into the historic streets of Prague, where the long-buried secrets of Dr Dee’s achievements are finally revealed, and Ben discovers there is far more to life than simply living…

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The Life Assistance Agency - AUTHOR PROFILE

(Courtesy of NetGalley)

Thomas Hocknell was brought up by Springer spaniels and his family in Kent. He knew the distance to central London from the foot of his childhood bed, and moved there the first moment he could 23 years ago. He has been writing music reviews for Record Collector, The Metro, Classic Pop, BBC and Line of Best Fit while also practicing as a mental health social worker. He won some short story competitions a long time ago, and completed the Faber Writing course under Richard Skinner in 2012. The Life Assistance Agency is his first novel.

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