In the mildly Douglas Adams-esque novel Life, Liberty, And The Pursuit Of Sausages, popular British humor author Tom Holt makes light of quantum physics for a low-stakes mystery until he starts looking for answers to its bigger questions. As the in-house lawyer for a building company, Polly has plenty of energy amid checking an endless stack of contracts to focus on who keeps stealing and emptying her coffee mugs before she has a chance to drink out of them. When she discovers her dry cleaning has gone missing—and the dry cleaners’ store with it—she enlists her brother Don, a jingle writer Polly considers lazy and “luckier than a shedful of cats,” to solve the problem. Don, who used to have nightmares that Santa Claus was actually real, applies his analytical mind, but only discovers he has an unexplainable power that accidentally makes his neighbor vanish. Looking for the neighbor, Polly and Don learn some unsettling news about her employer: It appears to be operating in a few dimensions simultaneously, creating issues much larger than her missing mugs.

“The only way you can get magic to pay is by using it to do petty, mean things,” Polly decides as her world is upended and she and her brother are introduced to their none-too-pleased alternate-universe counterparts. Her stubbornness, like all the elements at play in Pursuit Of Sausages, is comically outsized from the first sign of trouble, softening any potential danger she and Don face by starting her off in the key of panic. That bigger-is-better approach seems unsustainable as half a dozen mysteries open, but as long as Holt doesn’t pretend his characters are in any danger, Polly and Don’s stumbling attempts to get to the bottom of the mystery of the missing dry cleaner clips along easily.


This relaxed, ever-broadening view serves Holt well until Pursuit Of Sausages’ largely unnecessary denouement, in which the pseudoscientific layer introduced in an early throwaway scene involving a thoughtful pig becomes a leading preoccupation. When his worst villains’ goal is merely to maintain the status quo, what does it matter from whence the rift in the space-time continuum emanates? As Polly wishes to return to her desk, the mystery self-complicates in order to draw out a conclusion that might make sense, though sense is the last thing such a madcap adventure needs. Holt doesn’t particularly invest in his own ending, much like the cheerily confused but captivating inhabitants in his world, who for the most part are elevated above the rules that may govern it.