Sunday, January 20, 2008

Book Review: "The Case of the Missing Books"

The first of what I hope will be many installments in the "Mobile Library Mystery" series, Ian Sansom's The Case of the Missing Books (2006) chronicles the arrival of Israel Armstrong - a portly, cynical, Jewish, vegetarian from London - to Tumdrum, a rough-and-tumble coastal town in Northern Ireland. Israel's come to Tumdrum to take up his position as the town's librarian, but finds things aren't going to be quite that simple. The library's been closed, and Israel finds himself assigned to man the "mobile library" instead; but of course the 15,000 books comprising the library's stock have gone missing, and it's his job to find them.

With biting wit and a fair helping of humor, Sansom deftly handles the absurdities and quirks of rural life and culture and the pitfalls they present to the unwary outsider (especially those as utterly comic as Israel Armstrong).

Lovely light reading, reminiscent of Garrison Keillor's sketches of Lake Wobegon. Highly recommended.

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