Friday, July 8, 2016

The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom

The Case of the Missing Books is not so much a mystery as a comic novel. To be sure, there is the mystery: who stole the 15,000 books from the Tumdrum Library? And there is grievous bodily harm but only to our hapless hero's wardrobe and dignity.

After traveling by train, ferry, and bus from London, when Israel Armstrong finally arrives in Tumdrum, a coastal town in Northern Ireland, to begin what he thinks is his new career as town librarian, he discovers that the library has closed - permanently. His job, it seems, now entails operating the town's beat-up, rusty - and bookless - mobile library.

Israel is not happy about this. In his mind a mobile library lives at the bottom of a long list of libraries that is topped by the British Library, university libraries, big public libraries, and even falls below libraries in prisons and mental institutions. Of course, a mobile library is not a library if it contains no books and he sets out to find who stole them which leads to many merry adventures. Merry for the reader, that is, but not for Israel who is definitely a stranger in a strange land.

To wit: His living quarters on a family's farm turn out to be an abandoned chicken coop complete with a few straggly hens; he is forced to wear borrowed and too-short camo pants and jacket as his one corduroy suit burned while drying out on the farmhouse stove (along with his credit cards and cash); and just about everyone he meets is suspicious of him and a wee bit combative.

Poor Israel. He just doesn't seem to ever get a break. But all's well that ends well, and he does manage to solve the case.

This book is the first in the Mobile Library Mystery series by Ian Sansom that I referenced in last week's post (here). I loved the characters and the bizarre situations that Israel, the hopeful librarian, finds himself in. (Although he doesn't enjoy them as much as the reader!)

And the cover, a throwback to pre-computer days, is a gem.

There are many literary references that, of course, are always fun, and Mr. Sansom's writing is clever and entertaining. I have to say that I enjoyed this romp a little better than his Norfolk Mystery, but will give the second installments of both series a try.

These books have offered me a literary vacation which has been quite pleasant. What places have you visited via books this summer?


  1. I love that cover, and I'm all for comic mysteries. Life itself is far to serious and sad too often. Sounds like great fun.

    I've been summering in England this year, courtesy of Ngaio Marsh/Inspector Alleyn and Nicola Hodgkinson's memoir, Life With the Lid Off. I've also visited Three Pines with Inspector Gamache. Seems I'm in a mystery sort of mood.

    1. Hi, Kathy. I can't seem to get away from light-hearted mysteries these days. A good chuckle or even a faint smile helps keep my spirits up!

      I don't think I have read any of the Inspector Alleyn mysteries although I have watched a couple of the TV series episodes. I just looked up Hodgkinson's memoir which looks to be a fun read! And I am way behind on the Three Pines mysteries. Thanks for the suggestions.

  2. I will definitely seek this one out, Belle.
    There is one library in my inter-library loan system and I will admit that I sometimes go there for the pocket/card due date - just because. I love the ease of technology, but, sometimes yearn for the ritual of a the cards, sometimes with long lists of names on them.

    1. How clever, Penny. I, too, love to 'discover' a book with the pocket still attached. Old School is still often the Best School. I think you would like this little mystery.