A hapless librarian scours the picturesque Irish countryside for missing tomes.
London bibliophile Israel Armstrong arrives at the small Northern Ireland town of Tumdrum full of idealistic anticipation about brightening the lives of the dim local yokels. His spirits are dampened when he finds the library closed and is summoned to a meeting with bureaucrat Linda Wei. She officiously informs him that he’s been reassigned to the Mobile Learning Centre (bookmobile) as an Outreach Support Officer (driver). Just off the dole and with no other prospects, Israel accepts his fate: helping to refurbish the dilapidated vehicle while he lives on a rural farm inhabited by quirky characters. He does get to engage in some healthy flirting with farm girl George, a development that’s especially welcome because his London girlfriend, Gloria, seems to cool with every crackly phone call. But he soon discovers that 15,000 volumes are missing. Thus begins a wild goose chase hither and yon. Israel turns up little but another possible love interest in Veronica, a sultry reporter who becomes George’s instant nemesis. Discovering that the books have been reassigned to, or stolen by, other nearby libraries should be the end of Israel’s troubles, but unfortunately it’s only the beginning.
A buoyant series kickoff. Veteran Sansom (The Impartial Recorder. 2004, etc.) writes with refreshing deftness and sharp wit.