A feckless vegetarian Jewish English librarian takes up residence in northern Ireland, where he’s greeted by unexpected troubles.
His mum wanted him to be a doctor, of course. Or at least a lawyer. But Israel Armstrong, now nearly 30, was such a book nerd that he willingly moved from cosmopolitan London to County Antrim to take up a post driving the bookmobile. He had to leave his girlfriend Gloria behind, but organizing the five-panel display commemorating the 100-year history of the town’s main department store, Dixon and Pickering’s, kept him busy. Alas, it also landed him in a jail cell when he went to the store to install it and learned that Mr. Dixon had vanished, as had millions of pounds from the company coffers. The picaresque trail he wanders to prove his innocence is fueled by packets of chips and cinnamon scones, about all he can afford once the library fires him right after the cops seize him for kidnapping and robbery. Many satirical and flamboyantly comic encounters later, Israel is off the hook for crimes he didn’t commit but saddled with woes of a more romantic nature.
The plot is wispy, but the dialogue is certainly amusing. Readers who enjoy send-ups of crime novels, talk-radio hosts, city pomposities and rural eccentricities will queue up for the series (The Case of the Missing Books, 2007, etc.).