Stephanie's Reviews > The Case of the Missing Books

The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom
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's review
Jun 26, 10

bookshelves: mystery
Read in May, 2010 — I own a copy

The Case of the Missing Books is the first in Ian Sansom’s new cozy mystery series bout put-upon would-be librarian Israel London. It’s a wry and witty book with a very distinct fish-out-of-water theme that makes for some hilarious if very loosely plotted reading.

Israel London, a Jewish vegetarian who has never quite lived up to lofty academic and career goals he has set himself, accepts, at the behest of his girlfriend, who it seems would rather like him out of the picture, a position at a small library in rural Ireland. Israel is overjoyed at having a chance at last to make the most of his bibliophile leanings—his patchy career thus far has been somewhat less than remarkable—and he arrives in quite the enthusiastic state. Until he finds that the local library has been closed for financial reasons, and that he has been demoted to the role of a mobile library driver. And if this isn’t enough of a blow, the sudden absence of some 15,000 library books certainly sets poor Israel reeling.

Israel’s first port of call is to unearth the forlorn and geriatric library van, which he does with the help of laconic ex-pugilist Ted, the town’s former mobile librarian, or, as the position is commonly known, ‘community outreach officer’. The unlikely duo make the rounds, with poor Israel flailing and bumbling about as he jumps to all sorts of conclusions about the culprit behind the missing books, and commits faux pas after faux pas with his every effort to engage the townsfolk.

Readers who are after a strong mystery may be disappointed with The Case of the Missing Books, as despite Israel’s self-comparison with Poirot, he’s certainly no detective—and neither is there much of a case to be solved. Rather, the main focus of the book is on Israel’s awkward integration into his new home, and the way his expectations and assumptions are frequently and painfully overturned. The book is full of self-deprecating humour and awkward, farcical situations where Israel inevitably says or does entirely the wrong thing, resulting in all sorts of ridiculous and hilarious consequences. While it speaks perfectly to my sense of humour, which leans towards the absurd and punny, others may find themselves rather under-enamoured by the book’s slightly canted approach to the cozy mystery genre.

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