The first in a proposed series about Israel Armstrong, rumpled and befuddled bookmobile librarian in small town Northern Ireland, The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom (2006) introduces not only Israel, who travels from London to start a new job as town librarian at the Tumdrum and District Library, but also a whole cast of local eccentrics. The story is a classic “fish out of water” tale. The plot: an overeducated newcomer from the big city comes to a small town where wiley locals contrive to pull the wool over his eyes has been done before of course and is done charmingly here. The book reminded me of Bill Forsyth’s 1983 movie, Local Hero, or more recently, Waking Ned Devine or Saving Grace, all movies based in the U.K. where the townsfolk’s mistrust of authority binds them together, results in heart-warming hijinks, features endearingly nutty locals and ends happily.
The Case of the Missing Books, a mobile library mystery is the funniest book I’ve read in a while and I will recommend it to anyone who, having finished all the #1 Ladies Detective Agency books by Alexander McCall Smith, is looking for a gently humorous, character driven, “cozy” kind of mystery. The Sansom book has comic touches that speak to the experience of librarians in public libraries everywhere, but should be enjoyable for fans of satirical books like a Confederacy of Dunces. Here is a review in the Guardian.