Lost Property – Helen Paris

*I received a free ARC of this book, with thanks to the author, Transworld Books – Random House UK and NetGalleyThe decision to review and my opinions are my own.*

Blurb: Dot Watson has lost her way.

Twelve years ago her life veered off course, and the guilt over what happened still haunts her. Before then she was living in Paris, forging an exciting career; now her time is spent visiting her mother’s care home, fielding interfering calls from her sister and working at the London Transport Lost Property office, diligently cataloguing items as misplaced as herself.

But when elderly Mr Appleby arrives in search of his late wife’s purse, his grief stirs something in Dot. Determined to help, she sets off on a mission – one that could start to heal Dot’s own loss and let her find where she belongs once more…

Despite the cheery tones of the book’s cover, this is a dark, sometimes distressing, read. I don’t often do trigger warnings, but will mention up front here that it covers issues including suicide, substance abuse and a sexual/physical assault that left me feeling as shaken as the character involved. None of these serious topics are used gratuitously – they are treated with sensitivity and understanding, and Dot’s journey may even help some people dealing with similar issues, but don’t go into this story expecting a jolly romp of skipping around matching people to their treasures.

There are some very obvious comparisons to Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine here: the main character is socially awkward and adheres to her own customs and rituals, quietly judging those around her who are louder, more social, more comfortable with themselves. However, Dot is her own character, with her own past traumas and current issues to overcome, not just a Oliphantine carbon copy.

I really enjoyed the almost mystical world of the Lost Property office, with its poignant mustard-coloured labels and cavernous shelved storage of wonders (and umbrellas). Dot’s reverence for the building, the lost items, and the routine of recording and (hopefully) reuniting is touching and a little contagious, and I found myself sympathising with her horror at the slapdash ways of Anita, SmartChoice et al. It was fun to watch Dot gradually loosen up a bit, and start to deal with her trauma at the loss of her dad.

Until she loosened up a little too far, and it became clear that she was spiralling into a very deep, dark hole that she was going to struggle to drag herself back from. On the way, she attempts to solve a few mysteries (The Case of the Dead Father; The Case of the Missing Holdall), avoid connecting with family and friends, and put aside her old dreams of travelling the world. She is not entirely successful in all of those aims, despite her best efforts.

This is a beautifully written, heart-tugging story about love, family secrets, losing and being lost, which takes the reader to some dark places, but brings them out again with the hope for a lighter future.

You have to be precise in Lost Property. You have to find the exact right words and fit them on to the modestly sized Dijon-coloured labels tied to every single lost item stored here. If you write ‘Woman’s Handbag, dappled burgundy’ rather than ‘Woman’s Handbag, red’, it can make all the difference as to whether that bag is reunited with its owner or languishes in Lost Property for ever. Leather handle, you say? What kind? I ask. Looped? Stitched? Buckled? Chewed? Admittedly, it’s a challenge to make one black collapsible umbrella stand out from another, but I do my best. I pay attention to the details.

– Helen Paris, Lost Property

You can find Dr Helen Paris on Twitter here.

Lost Property is available on Amazon right now!


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