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The Case of the Missing Books

(Mobile Library Mystery #1)

3.02  ·  Rating details ·  3,271 ratings  ·  662 reviews
Israel Armstrong is a passionate soul, lured to Ireland by the promise of an exciting new career. Alas, the job that awaits him is not quite what he has in mind. Still, Israel is not one to dwell on disappointment, as he prepares to drive a mobile library around a small, damp Irish town. After all, the scenery is lovely, the people are charming--but where are the books? Th ...more
Paperback, 326 pages
Published January 2nd 2006 by Harper Collins Publishers (first published 2005)
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Average rating 3.02  · 
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 ·  3,271 ratings  ·  662 reviews

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Nov 30, 2011 rated it did not like it
It was obvious from when I ordered this book that it would not be your average mystery: young Jewish (half Irish) man arrives from joblessness in London to a small town in Ireland - Tumdrum - in the expectation of taking up a post as the new town librarian. After a hellish trip, which turns out to be fairly typical of his luck, he discovers that funding has been cut, the library will be sold and razed, and his new job is to be driving the mobile library replacing the brick and mortar stationary ...more
Connie G
Feb 09, 2020 rated it it was ok
Israel Armstrong traveled to Northern Ireland to start a new job as a librarian. When he reaches the library, he finds that his job description has changed. He now has to drive a mobile library around some of the small villages of County Antrim. But the books have disappeared!

This is a light book with lots of slapstick humor. Nothing goes right for Israel--he's the guy who breaks his eyeglasses, steps in manure, and has his pants burn while drying by the stove. It wasn't the right book for me, b
Aug 13, 2011 rated it did not like it
I did not like this book. It’s a fish-out-of-water tale where Israel Armstrong moves from London to northern Ireland to be a librarian. As are many small communities, Israel has a rough transition that is exacerbated by almost every member of the community. He’s so hapless that his continual misfortunes don’t garner an abundance of sympathy. I did not find a single character in this book likable.

He also must solve the mystery of the missing library books which goes just as badly as his transitio
Mar 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all librarians
Recommended to Carolyn by: Washington Post Book Review
This is a charmer. This is the story of a vegetarian librarian from London who finds himself in rural Ireland running a run down bookmobile with no books. Israel Atmstrong, the librarian, is a composite of Walter Mitty, Inspector Clouseau and a bit of Ignatius Reilly. The people in the village would also be right at home in Twin Peaks. How can anyone resist this? The joy in this read is the richness of the characters coupled with wonderful writing of Ian Sansom. I have read some criticism that i ...more
Mary Tuley
Nov 20, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who's hipper than me, and that should be a large group
I know I should've loved this book, but I really didn't -- probably because it's rougher and grimmer than I could enjoy right now. However, I still think it deserves four or five stars, for all the open-minded readers who WILL enjoy it. Besides, the main premise -- that the new librarian has to go search for the library's books, all of which have been misplaced -- gets automatic points for originality and fun.
Aug 10, 2010 rated it did not like it
"Israel Armstrong is a passionate soul, lured to Ireland by the promise of an exciting new career. Alas, the job that awaits him is not quite what he had in mind. Still, Israel is not one to dwell on disappointment, as he prepares to drive a mobile library around a small, damp Irish town. After all, the scenery is lovely, the people are charming -- but where are the books? The rolling library's 15,000 volumes have mysteriously gone missing, and it's up to Israel to discover who would steal them ...more
Jan 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
Israel Armstrong, a half-Jewish, half-Irish slacker is hired by the local council of Tumdrum, a small town in Northern Ireland, to be the librarian for a newly-instituted mobile library. There's only one small problem (aside from the fact that Israel hates everyone in and everything about Tumdrum): the library's entire collection of books is missing and Israel is expected to find it. Our hero becomes an unlikely gumshoe, determined to trace his missing collection and in the process discovers tha ...more
Oct 13, 2008 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
BJ Rose
Sep 04, 2009 rated it liked it
Israel Armstrong is an overweight vegetarian Englishman with a Jewish mother and an Irish father who takes the job of librarian in a Northern Ireland village. A few problems erupt immediately, however. The library is closed permanently, the Mobile Library he's supposed to use is an empty, rusty van, AND all the books are missing! And the craziness begins.

I do not enjoy slapstick comedy, and I'm sure I would not like a movie version of this book. But I think that the reason this works in book for
Mar 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
First, I have to thank Bonnie for her review of book 4 in this series: I'd never heard of Ian Sansom and the Mobile Library Mysteries before, but her great review made me want to read them.

I loved every minute of reading this book. I don't have one of those dainty, giggly-girl laughs, I have an embarrassingly loud, guffaw-type of laugh, and let me tell you, I've embarrassed myself in the lunchroom, the doctor's waiting room, and woken up my husband laughing out loud at this book. The dialog is
Aug 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this was a charity shop find, and I'm glad I brought it home, full of funny characters, in situations that were perfectly believable (well, possibly not the books, but the way new people are treated in a small village)
I particualrly enjoyed the character of TEd, off to look for more now!
Ruth Turner
May 15, 2014 rated it it was ok


I really wanted to like this book, but I didn't.

A cast of unlikeable characters, inane dialogue and a little too much slapstick. At times I was reminded of the Abbott and Costello's "Who's On First."


Melissa Landis
May 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
The story was funny. Started off a little slow but got better as you got further into the story. Kind of a different idea.
Apr 03, 2015 rated it liked it
So much more could have been done with this plot the slight humor could not make up for for the missing substance.

When a protagonist is as supercilious as this one, its not possible for this reader to triumph along. Perhaps a reader more versed in detective style would appreciate the references and innuendoes that fell flat for me.
This book was . . . I don't know how to describe it. I'm at a loss. It took me far too long to read (almost a week!) and, apart from some of the dialogue, just moved at too slow of a pace. But I slogged my way through it. . .

. . . only to be let down in the end! The mystery of the missing books solved itself, with no help from Israel. So after all of his bumbling, he never did find the books or figure out who stole them ((view spoiler)
Mar 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
This mystery involves the theft of 15,000 books from the library that the Irish village council had closed, due to lack of funds. This hilarious story features Israel Armstrong, the Irish Jew (who was brought up and living in London), and who has the misfortune to be hired to be the librarian for this village. Since the building has been closed, he will be in charge of the bookmobile instead, a rusted out bus with no shelves and no books! What is more, he and the bookmobile driver, Ted, discover ...more
May 31, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: mysteries
A light, fun read that's not really a mystery, more a fish-out-of-water story. London librarian Israel Armstrong, a schlubby Jewish vegetarian, accepts a post in rugged, rural Tumdrum, Northern Ireland, only to find when he arrives that the library has been closed and he'll have to run the mobile library (aka Bookmobile). Oh, and his lodgings are in a converted chicken coop

However, there's a snag, which one can guess from the title of the book: All the library books are missing. Friendless, cash
Richa Bhattarai
I abhorred this book and even though I rarely leave books midway I just wanted to, after around 30 pages. For it promised to be funny and mysterious but only seemed dank and gloomy and pitiful. But then suddenly it started growing on me. And even though it didn't warm my cockles and left me disappointed at the end, I have to grudgingly admit that it is quite hilarious. It takes a skilled writer to write so well. A little bit of PG Wodehouse, a little Dickensian humor. Once I got into the heart o ...more
Susan Emmet
May 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
If Israel Armstrong got clonked once more, I think I would have thrown this mystery out the window.
The broken nose was enough after all his "pratfalls."
I found humor quite often in dialog and event, but thought the plot wore thin despite some quite memorable characters.
Some less than sly commentary on anti-Semitism, government overreach and lying, bureaucratic idiocy and laziness.
Not a horrible book. Just not sterling.
2 stars, but rounding up because this is set in County Antrim!
Khris Sellin
Oct 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Silly but fun vacation week read.
Jun 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book although I realize that it won't be everyone's cup of tea. Israel Armstrong is a librarian--well, he has his degree and has worked in several short-term situations--who is willing to relocate from London to Tumdrum, a small town in Northern Ireland, in order to finally have a job in a full-time position. Israel is around 30 and is a Jewish vegetarian who arrives in Tumdrum to find the library closed and all of the books missing. In fact, his new supervisor, Linda Wei (Northern ...more
Jul 15, 2010 rated it liked it
There are many books I don't mind giving away or swapping when I'm done reading them. "The Case of the Missing Books" is one I'd like to keep in my collection, however, and it surprised me when I finished it that I felt this way.

When I began the book, I was amused, interested, and didn't mind the storyline, yet I wasn't completely enthralled or won over. Some of the humor in the beginning felt a little too much - and kind of slapstick. At first I thought, "Oh no! Poor Israel!" and then I starte
May 15, 2009 rated it liked it
When I finished reading this book the three words that first came to my mind were; clever, funny, and human. I give it 3.5 stars.

The Case of the Missing Books is the first in a series about Israel Armstrong, a librarian who takes a new job only to discover it is not at all what he expected. His library is closed and all the books are missing. To top things off he is in a "quirky" small town in Ireland far from anyone he knows and surrounded by a very, um, unique set of towns people. The people i
Rob Kitchin
May 29, 2012 rated it liked it
The Case of the Missing Books is effectively a cozy set in Northern Ireland. It has a quirky, awkward, central character as the sleuth and a cast of other colourful characters, and it takes place in a small town where everybody knows everybody else. The central plot revolves around Armstrong trying to find his feet in a strange place, where the locals are at one level welcoming and, at another, standoffish, whilst he tries to locate the missing books. It’s one of those books that I’m kind of amb ...more
Aug 31, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: mysteries
Kind of goofy, but I liked it. I liked the setting (Ireland) and the subject (libraries). I didn't especially like Israel Armstrong, the main character, but I'm not sure I was supposed to like him all that much. I really don't think life had to be that hard for him. Plenty of quirky townspeople. Plenty of possibility for more mobile library adventures.

Loved the following passage:
Israel had grown up in and around libraries. Libraries were where he belonged. Libraries to Israel had always been a
The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom is the first installment of Israel Armstrong, librarian/inept detective. Israel is a Jewish librarian from London who accepts a position as librarian in a small town in Ireland at the urging of his girlfriend. It is significant that Israel is Jewish because it is a very big deal to the residents of this small town.

Once in Ireland, Israel suffers a series of mishaps that leave him physically and emotionally bruised, penniless, and the unhappy librarian
Oct 25, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mysteries
Why, oh, why don't I find incompetent librarians, obtuse supervisors, and uncooperative customers funny? Israel (the character, not the country) failed to win my sympathy (okay, maybe we're talking about the country as well). He's hostile (although it could have been blood sugar and bad travel karma - that would do it for me) and clumsy. The woman at the council is two-dimensional and her fatness and constant eating of junk food is insulting to those of us who love junk food, I guess.
Israel is
Aug 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cozy-mysteries
This book reminded me, in a way, of Cold Comfort Farm - also starring a relatively-sophisticated urbanite amongst incomprehensible rural people. In this case, a bumbling, headache-prone librarian finds that the rural library that has hired him is administered by a woman whose food habits alone make him wince. The local Council has decided to close the library building and replace it with bookmobile service - not at all what Israel Armstrong had expected. Before he can begin, though, he has to fi ...more
Mar 18, 2009 rated it did not like it
Another book that I forced myself to read 100 pages and then could not stomach it after that. I have a hard time putting up with blundering idiots in real life so it's little wonder why I can't tolerate them in my books. The main character of this novel is whiny and kind of mean and the author blames it on the fact that he is a book person and therefore sensitive and shy. In other words his love of books has led him to have no fortitude. That was the first big tip off that I was probably not goi ...more
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Mobile Library Mystery (4 books)
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