May Contain Traces Of Magic by Tom Holt (book review).

‘May Contain Traces of Magic’ by Tom Holt is a comic fantasy book about travelling salesman Chris Popham. He lives in a version of our world where there are few who know about magic and can practice it. Chris is a salesman of magical artefacts and sells things like portable parking spaces, powdered water and instant thunderstorms. Chris’ life is a bit of disaster. He is an average salesman who has a strained relationship with his long-time girlfriend Karen and is in love with their mutual friend, Jill, a demon hunter working for the government. He is trying to sell as much as he can, while being saddled with a trainee named Angela who he resents for having a degree.


Chris’ life changes dramatically when a demon appears in his car and leaves without trying to eat him. The existence of demons is not common knowledge, as they come from another dimension and kill humans to feed on their heightened emotions at the point of death to support their incredibly high metabolisms. The government hides this fact from the general public while it hunts down the demons who cross into their dimension. He also starts having conversations with his SatNav, instead of just asking her for directions which is dangerous as SatNavs are powered by trapped convicted criminal creatures like the Fey and have been known to possess humans.

Chris is followed by more demons who are convinced he knows where ‘The one who is to come’ is. He has no idea who she is or how he could have come into contact with her and struggles to stay alive while his simple and boring life gets stranger and he can’t trust the people around him.

While I did find the book funny, especially Chris’ thoughts on the world and his life, the story itself was too convoluted. The fact that everyone around Chris seemed to be lying and something other than human was interesting at first and then got more and more bewildering when there were multiple trips into the past. Chris figures out who’s who at the end and the proper sequence of events but I can still can’t make sense of all of it which ruined the end of the book for me.

Supreethi Selvam

September 2016

(pub: Orbit, 2009/2010. 345 page small hardback. Price: £12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84149-505-7

pub: Orbit. 339 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84149-506-4)

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