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15 March 2012

The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom

Ian Sansom's 'The Case of the Missing Books' is the first in his 'The Mobile Library' series, which includes 'Mr Dixon Disappears', 'The Book Stops Here', 'The Bad Book Affair' and 'The Delegates' Choice'.

The early pages are largely dedicated to introducing the central character, Israel Armstrong. This resoundingly individual, richly eccentric librarian is the source for most of the narrative's social interplay, zany adventures and bizarre incidents. Indeed, while this is in essence a detective story, Israel is one of the most unconvincing sleuths you're ever likely to encounter. Hence all the fun.

Israel's new job in Northern Ireland is a far cry from his normal London stomping ground, lifestyle and routine. This alienation from the familiar and comfortable only accentuates his highly individual character traits.

The levels of intrigue and secrecy run deep in the close-knit Tumdrum and District community. It's colourful characters - no doubt drawn from Sansom's astute observations of the County Antrim area's real life inhabitants - are vividly brought to life by the author's considerable writing talent and deft style.

My only niggles are a rather slow beginning and that certain comic dialogue passages, written in a halting, leading-nowhere conversational form, might be easier to listen to rather than to read. Nevertheless, I found it a highly entertaining book. I'll certainly be seeking out the rest of the series.

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