Monday, February 08, 2010

Book Review: "The Bad Book Affair"

Ian Sansom's fourth installment in his Mobile Library Mystery series is The Bad Book Affair (Harper, 2010). I rather wish Sansom would just drop the mystery business, since as in prior installments the mystery in question wasn't much of one at all. And this time around I thought Sansom tried to throw in a few too many minor plotlines, not all of which came together in a satisfying way at the end.

That said, the best part about these books has always been the strange culture of Tumdrum, the Northern Ireland town where our pathetic hero (the English-Jewish-vegetarian mobile librarian Israel Armstrong) plies his trade, eats bad scones, and tries to keep out of trouble with the law. Armstrong's more depressed than ever in this book (recently dumped, almost 30, migraines to boot), and his colleague Ted's just as unsympathetic as usual. But the daughter of a local politician's gone missing, and naturally Israel finds himself unwittingly involved in the investigation.

Ted and his Tumdrum companions (including here the elderly and deranged bibliophile Pearce Pyper, the only slightly-less-deranged Bible-quoting Mr. Devine, and Israel's landlady George) are what make these books bearable, and Sansom's characterizations of them continue to improve. Unfortunately the quality of the mysteries seem to stay about the same.

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