The Case of the Missing Books

“He’d been a bookish child, right from the off, the youngest of four, the kind of child who seemed to start reading without anyone realising or noticing, who enjoyed books without his parents’ insistence, […] and who as a result had matured into an intelligent, shy, passionate, sensitive soul, full of dreams and ideas, a wide-ranging vocabulary, and just about no earthly good to anyone.

Ian Sansom’s The Case of the Missing Books is a mystery, about books, that at first glance promised quirky charm. Librarian Israel Armstrong has just uprooted himself to Northern Ireland when he discovers that the district has chosen instead to reopen the mobile library. Yet during this time of transition, all the books have mysteriously vanished.

One review compared the book to Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. Technically in some ways this is true, as the people and locale are given much more attention than the actual mystery, but it lacks the appealing grace and insight. Instead of being distinctive Israel is just pathetic. As a Jewish vegetarian he is already at odds with the meat-and-potatoes Methodists, and his London ears can’t decipher the dialect.

In fact, the more applicable cover blurb is “acute sense of the absurd.” Israel goes through more tribulations than might seem possible in a few short weeks. He’s been uprooted and suckered into a job he doesn’t want, he’s blamed for the missing books he has no idea how to find, he has numerous encounters with animal dung, he injures practically every inch of himself, and he has an uncanny ability to stick his foot in his mouth and jump to false conclusions. It drove me crazy. Half of this is his own fault and half the ridiculousness of those around him, but I constantly wanted to scream in frustration and throw the book across the room.

The final blow was a sentence calling Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince “a work of thick, dense, self-indulgent children’s fantasy” (one of the scarce references to an actual book). I’m such a forgiving soul that the excerpt in the back tempted me for the sequel, but I convinced myself that it’s not worth the time and frustration.

If you read it and liked it let me know–just because it wasn’t for me doesn’t mean it’s a bad book. After all, it’s earned the status of series.

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Published in: on September 21, 2009 at 7:32 pm  Comments (1)  
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  1. […] a copy of this for Christmas as well, and returned it. I had wanted so much to like it…) The Case of the Missing Books, by Ian Sansom Possibly related posts: (automatically generated) Published […]


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