Hogan’s whimsical first novel weaves together the stories of two British assistants, one of whom works for a publisher in the 1970s and the other who, in the present day, works for an unusual elderly gentleman who has dedicated himself to assembling a room full of “a sad salmagundi” of 40 years’ worth of detritus lost or abandoned by its owners.
In the '70s, imaginative young Eunice escapes from a dull life into a job with the charming Bomber, who runs an old-school publishing house where he picks only books of which he is personally fond while trying to avoid the manuscripts sent to him by his shrewish sister, Portia. Forty years later, Laura, awash in Prozac and alcohol after dumping her caddish husband, lands at the door of Anthony, the titular “keeper of lost things.” Soon after she's hired, Anthony dies, leaving her the house and the responsibility of uniting the lost things with their former owners. She finds herself involved not only with the project, but with the estate’s appealing gardener; a mysterious young woman with Down syndrome and psychic abilities; and a peevish ghost. The two storylines entwine with the short stories Anthony has written about the former owners of his objects, most of which turn out to be surprisingly on target and all of which add a welcome dash of sorrow and disappointment to what otherwise starts to turn into a rather conventional romance. While the villainous Portia, who writes novels with plots plagiarized from Jane Austen and J.K. Rowling, quickly grows wearisome, the other characters have spunk and wit to spare, and if the plot requires considerable suspension of disbelief, Hogan’s writing has the soothing warmth of the cups of cocoa and tea her characters regularly dispense.
Readers looking for some undemanding, old-fashioned storytelling with a sprinkling of magic will find it here.