The Better Mousetrap by Tom Holt

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The Better Mousetrap by Tom Holt

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Category: Humour
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Elaine Dingsdale
Reviewed by Elaine Dingsdale
Summary: A humorous - and yet at time poignant - continuation of The Portable Door. Peopled by extraordinarily human and elfish characters - and the rest!
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 368 Date: May 2009
Publisher: Orbit
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1841495040

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I approached this book with a fair degree of trepidation, as I had never heard of the author, and wondered if, when reading the synopsis, I was about to embark on a Terry Pratchett type novel (and I have to say, much though I admire his achievements, I'm not a fan of Discworld!) However, my fears were unfounded, and from page one I found myself drawn into this clever and erudite novel. Not having read the preceding novels in the series did put me at a slight disadvantage, but didn't detract from my enjoyment, and has certainly ensured that I'll read the others in the near future.

As a sequel to The Portable Door, this follows the trials and tribulations of several of the characters introduced there. Focusing primarily on Frank Carpenter (son of Paul), we see Frank turn his heritage/inheritance to his advantage, repeatedly outwitting the baddies - and joy, falling in love along the way!

All of the characters are beautifully depicted - elves, dragons, human… all share fantastically believable characteristics. The humanlike dragon, the dragon-like human, in superbly witty role reversals. This was the greatest attraction for me of the novel, and Holt's ability to sketch characters is truly remarkable. He has a deftness of touch, which brings each of them alive in an almost palpable manner - even the dragons! The parent/child role reversal was also extremely amusing and done in such an original way, I found myself laughing out loud at the exasperation felt by Frank - whether as a child, or the child/adult!

The scenes of dragon slaying and pest control were amongst the best - hilarious, but fortunately did not tend towards slapstick. Slaying dragons is important business:

She was no more than a hundred yards away from a fully grown bull dragon currently dying of extreme indigestion… That was what made dragon-slaying such a doddle, although you never let the client know that. The client imagined you hacking at the dragon with a bloody great sword…

The plot is slick, although I found towards the end it started to drag somewhat, with numerous twists and turns and the inevitable returning from the dead… many times over! However, this is a minor criticism and one which Holt purists and fans will no doubt find perfectly acceptable, delaying the inevitable conclusion for as long as possible. But a trifle long-drawn-out for my taste: in fairness to Holt, he does succeed in maintaining the momentum at all times, which is no mean feat in this genre.

But the themes throughout, despite being cloaked in humour did have a serious underlying message. Whether sympathising with the dragons losing their hoards of carefully accumulated gold, or Frank pondering upon the mysteries of life and love, there was plenty to think about. Not in any profound manner - the humour was too first-rate for the reader to become sidetracked, but nonetheless I very frequently found myself empathising with the characters and their numerous dilemmas.

Bizarre-but believable would be my summary of this-and I'd certainly recommend it. I now plan to read a few more Tom Holt: somehow, I don't think I'll be disappointed, as this was an excellent read.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this type of humour appeals to you then we think you ought to have a look at Christopher Moore as well. You might also enjoy Barking by Tom Holt.

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Buy The Better Mousetrap by Tom Holt at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Better Mousetrap by Tom Holt at


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