Kirkus Reviews QR Code


by Ian Sansom

Pub Date: Aug. 12th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-06-145200-0
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

A vegetarian Jewish bookmobile driver transplanted from London gets homesick.

Now settled in Tumdrum, Northern Ireland (The Case of the Missing Books, 2007, etc.), Israel Armstrong misses everything he left behind: Grodzinski’s cheesecake and espresso, his mates at The Bargain Bookstore, reading Booker prizewinners and, maybe most of all, his girlfriend Gloria. So when his boss Linda offers to send him and his bookmobile partner over to London to pick out a new van at the Mobile Meet, Israel is eager to go. Ted, by contrast, loves every rusty nut and bolt and engine whine in their van and doesn’t want to replace it. Then canny Israel bets Ted £1000 that their van won’t win the Meet’s Concours D’Elégance prize. And off they go. Alas, a stopover at Israel’s childhood home in Finchley has calamitous results. Ted chats up Israel’s mum, and, almost worse, their van is stolen, propelling Israel’s mum into organizational overdrive and sending the heroic pair on a wild chase after travelers who have repainted the van to resemble a New Age poster and decamped with it to initiate solstice rites at Stonehenge.

The mystery’s barely there, but the company in this slapstick satire is so appealing that you’ll never miss it, especially when Ted makes up more words than Mrs. Malaprop and Israel keeps bumping into reasons why London isn’t home anymore.