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Earth, Air, Fire and Custard

by Tom Holt

Series: J.W. Wells (3)

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4231249,559 (3.39)7
J.W. Wells seemed to be a respectable establishment, but the company now paying Paul Carpenter's salary is in fact a deeply sinister organisation with a mighty peculiar management team. Paul thought he was getting the hang of it (particularly when he fell head over heels for his strangely alluring colleague Sophie), but death is never far away when you work at J.W. Wells. Unlike the stapler - that's always going awol. Our lovestruck hero is about to discover that custard is definitely in the eye of the beholder. And that it really stings. Tom Holt's exceedingly comic fantasies are populated with evil goblins, annoying sprites and people like us. However, it's not always possible to tell the difference.… (more)
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» See also 7 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
Another funny addition to the series. It reads OK as a stand-alone, but does refer to the earlier stories in the series, so it probably would be worth reading them first.

All of the plot points get confusing and possibly don't make complete sense, but it is a funny read and worth the effort. ( )
  Skybalon | Mar 19, 2020 |
Many endings. Three novels worth. ( )
  Fiddleback_ | Dec 17, 2018 |
This is the third in a series of J.W. Wells stories where the hapless Paul Carpenter finds himself forced to work in a company that's really a front for the magic business of a bunch of goblins. In this adventure he has to deal with the lack of love in his life, pointless errands for his boss, dying several times, a parallel universe made of custard, and setting reality straight several times over. The plot and twists are overly complicated but that's part of the fun. The humor in this book is sharp and while the book may be overly long, I enjoyed catching up with Paul and company. ( )
  Othemts | May 23, 2016 |
'I have a feeling that it won't take me very long at all to get settled in here. If I may say so, Mr Tanner, you run a tight ship.'
(What did that mean, exactly? A ship that never bought a round? A ship that kept getting wedged in the entrances to small harbours?)


The third book in the series that started with "The Portable Door", in which Paul Carpenter has numerous problems at work, dies several more times, and continues his love-hate relationship with his colleague and ex-girlfriend Sophie Pettingell.

The story seemed to take rather a long time to get going and I felt that possibly this series was running out of steam. ( )
  isabelx | Apr 22, 2011 |
The covers of this book are too far apart --Ambrose Bierce

I avoid reading dreary books--no matter how classic or well-written, they just bring my mood down. I never really thought to think that about a Tom Holt book. I don't mean that a book necessarily has to be sweetness and light, or have a happy ending, or be the best of all possible worlds. If I did, I wouldn't be quoting Ambrose Bierce, or consider his The Devil's Dictionary to be one of the joys of my life. But Paul and Sophie, especially Sophie, are just too hapless and whiny. Sophie seems to seek out things to be unhappy about.

I wonder if the J.W. Wells books grew out of a rough patch in Tom Holt's life. The ending of In Your Dreams was so sad and bitter that I was a bit worried about his marriage. But still, I was eager to read this next installment, but I was disappointed and kept wishing the end of the book was closer. The bitterness undercuts any attempts at wit. This was just a constant recycling of scenes, with clunky rewrites of things that Holt apparently wished he had done differently. Oh no, I'd be thinking, not the land of the dead again! Can't Holt think of something new? Well, there is the Custard space, but Holt's usual crazy, whimsical humor fails, and I get very tired of the motif of the characters struggling to get out of it again by a new method every time. Despite having learned how to use magic to make his milk fresh, Paul still constantly has curdled milk, the Portable Door no longer works as it used to, and so on. (I don't want to give away too much of the plot.) There is a lengthy explanation at the end, but it still leaves a few things out, and frankly I don't care anyway. The story after the big explanation is just more dragging out of the plot, and not all of the loose ends are tied up. Paul and Sophie have gotten very wearing, and if that's supposed to be a happy ending for them, I don't care, and I'm sure they'll mess it up somehow.

I just hope this series is an anomaly and his recent stand-alone books are more along the lines of [[ASIN:1857231813 Expecting Someone Taller]]. ( )
  PuddinTame | Apr 12, 2011 |
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J.W. Wells seemed to be a respectable establishment, but the company now paying Paul Carpenter's salary is in fact a deeply sinister organisation with a mighty peculiar management team. Paul thought he was getting the hang of it (particularly when he fell head over heels for his strangely alluring colleague Sophie), but death is never far away when you work at J.W. Wells. Unlike the stapler - that's always going awol. Our lovestruck hero is about to discover that custard is definitely in the eye of the beholder. And that it really stings. Tom Holt's exceedingly comic fantasies are populated with evil goblins, annoying sprites and people like us. However, it's not always possible to tell the difference.

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