The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom is the first of a trilogy about Israel Armstrong, a Jewish librarian from London employed to run a mobile library in Northern Ireland. The only problem is there are no books: his first job is to find them.
The character of the young, inept male, Israel, is the source of much of the humour in this book. There are rich and amusing contrasts between him and a series of strange and eccentric characters living in Northern Ireland. These characters are unfailingly comical and interesting. Sansom evokes them with a few quick brush strokes, and the story moves on apace. The narrative voice is direct, clear and simple, and the jokes come thick and fast through paragraphs which build to the inevitable and whimsical anti-climax, or are replete with ironic exaggeration.
What is there not to like? We have the second volume, and I’ll be starting it tonight. Get down to your bookshop now.