The Case of the Missing Books (Mobile Library Mystery, Book 1) The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars

You might assume from the title that a novel about some missing library books is not a strong premise for drawing readers. The first chapter, though, belies the fun that is about to start following it. Our unlikely hero is an overweight Jewish Englishman, also an Irishman via his father, with a country for a first name. Israel Joseph Armstrong arrives at the doorstep of his new work place, a library in County Antrim coast of North Ireland, Tumdrum (rhyme it with humdrum), and discovers it closed.

Having taken leave of his lawyer girlfriend, one Gloria, with no surname and only dashes to show for her side of their phone conversations, he now stands in his “only pair of worn-out old heels, … his brown brogues …only best brown corduroy suit”. He has suffered a lengthy journey all the way from England, by turns in a bus, a train, a ferry, and finally, a coach.

He meets his boss, Linda Wei, a fat Chinese Irish with little glasses, with a lofty title, Deputy Head of Entertainment, Leisure And Community Services. Every time we encounter her throughout the book we see her invariably consuming snacks. Linda has duped poor Israel into believing he is to be the town’s new – immobile - librarian. She inveigles Israel into accepting the job - servicing Tumdrum from a mobile library - by offering him also a lofty title of Outreach Support Officer. And when he doesn’t take the bait she offers to pay for his journey back home by plane, only after he manages to solve the mystery of the missing library books - all 15,000.

Later, settling in, Israel meets some other colourful characters, like Ted Carson, cab company owner, also last driver – and concealer - of the mobile library, a bus, revealed to Israel in all its chicken shit-covered glory. The lodgings arranged for him is at the Devines’ farm - in a chicken coop. Israel also meets another individual with a country for a name, this time closer to home, England: a black South African reverend, whose siblings also have countries for names. Israel fancies himself a sleuth ala Poirot, with a pout though. In the course of his investigations he nearly gets seduced by a sexy Veronica Byrd from the local paper, Impartial Recorder, and gets directions, in his search around town, from locals to places such as Ballygullable.

Israel uses his books for other than reading. Breaking into a shop he suspects houses the missing books, he wards off an Alsatian with Yann Martel's Life of Pi. With Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince he has ‘just about the best book published this century’ – for smashing into the shop's glass stable door.

Towards the end of the book you get a foretaste of Israel’s next mystery to solve, still in Tumdrum (he’s not leaving by plane), from a chapter extract of Sansom’s forthcoming book, something to eagerly look forward to if it is going to be as hilarious as this one.

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