Somebody (more than one somebody, actually) has been lifting rare 19th-century sensational novels from Oxford's Bodleian Library and wiping out all traces of their existence from the library's computerized catalogue. So historical romancer Kate Ivory's old friend Andrew Grove, of the library's security team, asks Kate (Death and the Oxford Box, 1994, etc.) to go undercover as a cataloguer and find the culprit among the library's employees. Kate's outraged to find that nobody's connected the thefts with the strangling of library-trainee Jenna Coates; that everybody cares less about unattractive, self-righteous Jenna than about those precious books; and that desiccated men like computer-security chief Charles Trim and conservator Ian Maltby won't give her the time of day except to hit on her. The stuffy librarians who throng the warrens of Oxford are so deeply, uniformly boring that the best you can hope for them (and Kate does) is that they're all criminals. On the other hand, it's lucky for Kate--whose idea of detective work is to make lists of the suspects categorized by how well she likes them--that the master thief has been indulging in an elaborate confession (whose chapters are interspersed with Kate's own adventures) by means of an assignment for the creative-writing class that Kate's about to take over. Mystery and characters alike generate so little interest that the burden of entertainment falls heavily on the culprit's confession, which reads a little too calculatedly like a classroom exercise.