Saturday, December 30, 2006

Review of The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom

2005, Harper
329 pgs
Rating: * (Very Good)

First Sentence: No. No, no, no, no, no.

Reason for Reading: This was a Harper Collins First Look selection I put my name in for a chance to preview. Who am I to resist a book involving books? And a mystery at that!

Comments: Ian Sansom’s Mobile Library Mystery series is finally coming to the United States. The first book in the series, The Case of the Missing Books, is a witty and charming cozy-like mystery. The perfect book to end the year with.

The novel opens with the protagonist, Israel Armstrong, a Jewish and half Irish vegetarian from England, standing outside the library where he was supposed to begin his new job. Much to his dismay, the sign on the door delcares that the library is closed. For good. Worn out, down on his luck and extremely irratiable, Israel soon discovers that it was decided that the public would be better served with a mobile library instead of a more permanent, stay in place structure. Nothing is what he expected—or wanted. Against his better judgement, Israel agrees to stay and help get the mobile library off the ground before returning to England and his old life.

As the Tumdrum librarian it is up to Israel to uncover the mystery of the whereabouts of the missing 15,000 library books, which have apparently gone missing. Even though the books most likely disappeared before his arrival, he faces the blame if they are not recovered. Israel is an unlikely detective, not only brand new to a town where he does not feel welcom but also a victim to bumbling misteps, which offer laughs and chuckles at every turn. Poor Israel!

Although the author, Ian Sansom, does not spend a lot of time on character development other than Israel’s character, the style of writing and pace of the story make up for it. It’s full of humor, run on sentences that somehow seem to work well for the atmosphere of the story, and a genuine attraction to the eccentic characters in the novel. I had not expected to enjoy this book as much as I did, to be honest. I look forward to the next book in the series, which fortunately is slated to come out in May of 2007.

Note: Although I personally would classify this novel as being cozy-like there is strong language from time to time.

Favorite Part: There is one scene in which Israel is unpacking his clothes from his suitcase, “ . . . it was books mostly, some clean underwear, and then more books, and books and books and books, the ratio of books to underwear being bout 20:1, books being really the great constant and companion in Israel’s life; the were always there for you, books . . . “ [pgs 115-116]

And my favorite scene of all takes place during the early stages of Israel’s investigation into the missing books. He parks the mobile library near the town square and all of a sudden “ . . . a queue had formed at the back of the mobile library, a dozen middle-aged and elderly women with carrier bags waiting to get in.” [pg 138]

The characters of Reverend Roberts and Pearce Pyper were my favorites of the eccentric cast in the novel. Both share my love for mysteries, which may have been the cause for the instant connection.

Miscellaneous: I can hardly believe the end of the year is here. This time of year always seems to fly by. This will be my last book of the year. I begin the Chunkster, Winter Classics and TBR Challenges on Monday and am looking forward to the experience. Anna Karenina, here I come!

My posts will most likely slow down once the New Year comes and life returns to a more normal schedule.

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