Paul Weiss's Reviews > The Geographer's Library

The Geographer's Library by Jon Fasman
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bookshelves: suspense-thriller

A puzzling and ultimately unsatisfying ending!

The Geographer's Library has aspirations to that lofty genre, the literary thriller, which is attracting so many hopeful authors and readers of late. For a debut novel, Fasman's efforts come very, very close indeed to success but ultimately a puzzling and cryptic ending left me feeling like I had just dined on that proverbial gourmet Chinese food - you know that old one about eating lots and enjoying it but, when the ending arrives, you're not really satisfied and a few minutes later you're hungry!

The story begins as Paul Tomm, reporter for a small town Connecticut weekly, is assigned to write the obituary for Jaan Puhapaev, an Estonian professor of Baltic history at the local college, who died alone in his rooms. Tomm's questions, initially aimed only at fleshing out the bones on the life of an old man that nobody really knew, quickly began to disclose a much more shadowy past.

Fasman ekes outs the details of Puhapaev's shadowy past and its mystical connection to the shadowy arcane science of alchemy by interweaving a series of fourteen thoroughly entertaining historical vignettes with the main body of the plot. Each story tracks the life line of a different artifact, some now priceless and others barely distinguishable from garage sale junk, all stolen in antiquity from the collection of twelfth century geographer Al-Idris to their resting places in the modern era.

The writing was sharp; the malevolent and stomach-churning plot-line of the thriller was well-paced and compelling; the historical asides were entertaining and informative; the characterization was enjoyable; and the stereotypes - the tweedy college don, small town cops, the laid back weekly newspaper editor, the church-going music teacher and even a Russian mobster - were all spot on and used with wonderful effect. But when the climax arrived and it was time to resolve the thriller and tie the present to the past that magic dissolved in a puff of smoke.

I'm a reader that needs a little more resolution in a novel's ending and this one is anything but - puzzling, cryptic and unresolved with entire futures and relationships left hanging in the balance! I enjoyed the book but I was certainly left with the feeling that it could have been so much more.

Paul Weiss
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
October 18, 2018 – Shelved
October 18, 2018 – Shelved as: suspense-thriller

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