Geographer's Library

( 15 )

Overview

"When a twelfth-century Sicilian burglar snatches a sack of artifacts from the court geographer's library, the tools and talismans of "transmutation" are scattered all over the world. Nine hundred years later, in a sleepy New England town, Paul Tomm, a young reporter investigating the mysterious death of a local professor, finds that someone is collecting them again." "Jumping back and forth across centuries, Jon Fasman interweaves Paul's present-day investigation with stories of characters from the past into whose hands the extraordinary relics
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The Geographer's Library

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Overview

"When a twelfth-century Sicilian burglar snatches a sack of artifacts from the court geographer's library, the tools and talismans of "transmutation" are scattered all over the world. Nine hundred years later, in a sleepy New England town, Paul Tomm, a young reporter investigating the mysterious death of a local professor, finds that someone is collecting them again." "Jumping back and forth across centuries, Jon Fasman interweaves Paul's present-day investigation with stories of characters from the past into whose hands the extraordinary relics once fell. A Genoese merchant, a Soviet engineer, a British antiquarian, an elderly Chinese father - all have found that these objects of immeasurable value attract extremely determined pursuers." Chasing the story of a lifetime, Paul falls in love with the one person who knew the professor, and as he follows a trail of clues to the heart of an international smuggling ring that may hold the secret of eternal life, he gradually learns that the professor was not who he claimed to be - a discovery that comes with harrowing consequences.
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Editorial Reviews

David Liss
The Geographer's Library, by Jon Fasman, absolutely falls into the category of the arcane thriller, but it is a much more interesting and creative book than many of those making up the marketing wave on which it will no doubt attempt to ride. Yes, the story features obscure books in forgotten tongues, secret brotherhoods, exotic locales and clever puzzles, but Fasman comes across as a novelist genuinely interested in unraveling the convention of the thriller, and he gives his tale a delightfully and successfully postmodern flavor. And rather than presenting obscure knowledge as valuable only because it gets you things, he is far more interested in showing how physical things lead to knowledge.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
A young reporter is caught up in a deadly centuries-long treasure hunt in this puppyish but brainy debut, a thriller steeped in arcane lore and exotic history. When Paul Tomm, a reporter for the Lincoln Carrier, a small Connecticut newspaper, looks into the demise of Jaan Puhapaev, an elderly academic found dead in his cluttered house, nothing seems out of the ordinary-until the pathologist performing the autopsy is himself killed in a freak car accident. Various locals and acquaintances offer reminiscences of the late professor that suggest P hap ev was an extremely complicated (and perhaps dangerous) character. Tomm's discoveries lead him to a lovely young woman, a network of international smugglers and hidden alchemical libraries. Appealing more to the intellect than to the emotions, the book is slowed by the catalogue-like descriptions of precious objects that close many chapters, while the protagonist, however likable, is often too naive to be entirely credible. Still, some deft plotting and lively writing bode well for the author's future literary endeavors. Agent, James V. Rutman at Sterling Lord Literistic. (Feb. 7) Forecast: Fasman's novel may ride the coattails of The Da Vinci Code, though it has more in common with Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason's Rule of Four or Carlos Ruiz Zafon's Shadow of the Wind. Seven-city author tour. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Esteemed professor Jaan P hap ev has been found dead in his Lincoln, CT, home, and Paul Tomm-the somewhat feckless new recruit on the local paper-is asked to write an obituary. No obit has ever led to so much trouble. As the coroner succumbs to a hit-and-run, Paul discovers that the anonymous call reporting P hap ev's death was made from a pay phone and that the professor's fortresslike office at Wickenden University (Paul's alma mater) is stuffed with books written in obscure languages but clearly unrelated to his work. Even with the help of a former professor and his detective nephew, Paul is slow to tease out what has happened-and he's completely undone by what he finally discovers. Paul's investigation alternates with various exotic and seemingly unrelated tales, starting with the theft of a sack of artifacts from the home of al-Idrisi, the king's geographer, in 1154. An end-blown flute, a pack of cards, a rough-edged coin-all these and more are sought out in far-flung locales and procured through generally bloody confrontation by shadowy figures who eventually coalesce into a brotherhood connected to P hap ev. The ultimately supernatural aspect of the brotherhood didn't quite work for this reader, but otherwise this debut tells a terrific story-it's gripping, intelligent, and beautifully wrought. Recommended for most collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/04.]-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Mistaken, concealed, and assumed identities proliferate agreeably in this deftly paced debut thriller about a young reporter's accidental involvement with an elaborate history of international intrigue. After graduating from a tony Connecticut liberal-arts college, Paul Tomm is hired by a local weekly newspaper and draws the assignment to write an obituary for Jaan Puhapaev, a reclusive Estonian academic, and a seemingly unlikely murder victim-as is the local coroner who examines the professor's body. Acting on information provided by his own college mentor (ineffably urbane Professor Jadid), joining the latter's policeman nephew, Paul meets effervescent music teacher Hannah Rowe (Puhapaev's neighbor and friend), falls for her, then uncovers evidence of the dead man's collusion with globetrotting jewel thieves. But there's much, much more to the story, as we learn in juxtaposed parallel chapters that tell the story of an Arabic geographer-librarian commissioned by a 12th-century Sicilian monarch to map the entire then-known world, and of numerous invaluable objets d'art formerly possessed by the geographer (al-Idris), since sought by an expanding criminal cadre that has focused its energies on a legendary alchemical text (the Emerald Tablet), and whose searches had led to the late Puhapaev's doorstep. It sounds maddeningly complicated (and will indeed test the most seasoned thriller-reader's wits). But Fasman is equal to the daunting task, shifting at smartly judged intervals from Paul Tomm's ingenuous pursuit of the truth to murderous quests for a pair of golden flutes, an ivory box in which the breath of an Estonian poet is "stored," a deck of gorgeously hand-painted playing cards, andother treasures that lead toward the figure of sinister Russian naval commander (or spy, or perhaps smuggler) Voskresenyov, who surely cannot be as old as it seems he must be. Shades of Dan Brown, Edward Whittemore's Jerusalem Quartet, and Milorad Pavic's Dictionary of the Khazars: one of the year's most literate and absorbing entertainments. Author tour. Agent: Simon Trewin/PFD
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780641838620
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 2/28/2006
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Jon Fasman was born in Chicago in 1975 and grew up in Washington, D.C. He was educated at Brown and Oxford universities and has worked as a journalist in Washington, D.C., New York, Oxford, and Moscow. His writing has appeared in The Times Literary Supplement, Slate, Legal Affairs, the Moscow Times, and The Washington Post. He is now a writer and an editor for The Economist's Web site.

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Read an Excerpt

Driving from Wickenden to Clougham, Joe and I saw nobody. We passed no cars on the road, and there were none in the Lone Wolf's parking lot. Driving through Clougham was like driving through a painting of Clougham. Joe and I pulled up right next to the Lone Wolf's front door. The town’s eerie, deserted feeling added to my uneasiness, and even Joe, who could probably have charmed and wheedled Puhapaev’s eviscerated corpse into conversation, said almost nothing for the entire drive. I was thinking of Hannah, of course, and vacillating between anger, sadness, concern, and confusion, all underlaid with a bit of lust and a dash of regret. My usual emotional range, in other words.

All this for what could have been an obit at the back of a newspaper that a few hundred people would have run their eyes over before throwing away, a piece I could have written on the day of his death (“Distinguished Émigré Professor Dies,” a couple of grafs about his career, maybe a complimentary sentence or two from a colleague, and that sad and stark final sentence, “He has no known living relatives”).

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Customer Reviews

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( 15 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2006

    Disappointed

    This book was like a recipe gone wrong. All the right ingredients, but the finished dish just didn't turn out. Like other reviewers, I enjoyed Fasman's turn of phrase, but found the interlacing of chapters with descriptions of the antiquities confusing and not a great help in furthering the plotline. Finally, when the bad guy was revealed, I'd forgotten who he was!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2006

    Beautiful to read, but what happened?

    I finished reading this book about 5 minutes ago and planned to go searching around on line for clues to be sure I didn't miss something! The descriptions/similes/metaphors scattered throughout this book are outstanding. I can imagine Fasman's old creative writing professors beaming with pride with the way he puts words together. However, I found the story to be disconnected, and I feel that I am going to have to go back and read through certain chapters with closer scrutiny in order to make the story complete. Maybe I read too fast...? It was certainly a fun read, but now that it's done, I can't quite find my footing.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2005

    Eloquent but confusing and not very interesting

    I am not sure why The Rule of Four and The Geographer's Library are being compared to the Da Vinci Code. Both of these books are long on description but short on excitement. I had a very hard time getting through The Geographer's Library. I seriously doubt that I would read another book by Jon Fasman.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2005

    Well-written, but confusing

    Jon Fasman is an excellent writer in so many ways - some of his sentences are filled with breathtaking irony, poignancy, or wit. Unfortunately the sharpness of his prose doesn't extend to the plot, which I found complex, confusing, and just plain obscure at times. Alchemy is at the center of this tale, and possibly the secret to eternal life (or at least extreme longevity). A sack of rather odd and disparate objects which was stolen centuries ago, and its contents scattered, is apparently key to the secret. I never understood how, since there doesn't seem to be an explanation as to how these various items combine or coordinate to establish a formula. It is sometimes hard to figure out which character is which, especially as some of them are masters of disguise, and at least one of them has lived for centuries under different identities. I think. The current century's protagonist, a young journalist for a small-town paper who gets in over his head with his investigation of someone connected with the alchemy, is hard not to like. Overall, however, I felt as if I had spent a great deal of time with a novel by a talented guy whose complex yarn couldn't make me feel it was all worthwhile.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2009

    It's not what I'd call exciting

    The arrangement of the book is interesting - flashback type - but the storyline takes forever to get anywhere. The characters don't strike me as particulary interesting (or partiularly singularly NON-interesting for that matter), and the story stalls.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    a reviewer

    In Lincoln, Connecticut, reporter Paul Tomm for the weekly newspaper the Carrier is assigned to write the obit for Estonian academia¿s Jaan Puhapaev. To do so Paul investigates Jaan though he expects nothing to come of it beyond accolades. Eerily soon after Jaan¿s death, the pathologist who conducted the autopsy dies in a car accident. --- Recently graduated, Paul knows, from his college days, coincidences like these two deaths are rare though plausible. He makes inquiries which leads him to Jaan¿s neighbor music teacher Hannah Rowe and evidence that the late Estonian worked with lethal international jewel thieves. Soon Paul¿s efforts lead to a specific map created by twelfth century Arabic geographer al-Idris for a Sicilian client and artifacts allegedly owned by the cartographer, but especially the legendary alchemist¿s handbook the Emerald Tablet. As the journalist closes in on the truth, dangerous foes want him stopped with his demise being the preventative first choice. --- The story line actually switches focus back and forth between the twelfth century and modern times, but never misses a beat as Paul¿s inexperience in investigative journalism and love makes him endearing and the tale fun to follow. As Paul investigates, he begins to uncover clues of a jewel thieving cabal, who he conjectures murdered the professor and the pathologist, but fails to see that as he gets closer, the killers will want to exterminate him too thus in spite of his obvious intelligence, he seems too dumb not to anticipate they will come after him. Still though complex both subplots tie together nicely to make THE GEOGRAPHER¿S LIBRARY. --- Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2005

    confusing and not well linked together

    This author has great creativity and an interesting idea, but he does not write an effective book. The main character is too young to understand the Cold War aspects of this novel. The ending leaves one feeling that the characters exist only to protect a valuable something and have no real feelings for anyone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2005

    The book that wouldn't end

    Slow in developing, and once it does, it delivers too little or nothing. Some characters, who are ruthless for no apparent reason, stop being so, again for no apparent reason, and only at the convenience of the author. DaVinci Code was riveting, even if poorly written and straining credulity

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2005

    What the...?

    About half way into the book, and still lost as to what the story was about, I gave up. It was tedious, pointless, and (yes, I skipped to the end) had an ending that made me wonder what I had missed all along. The Rule of Four was much better.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2005

    complicated

    I was intrigued by a review I read, and I enjoy Fasman in the Economist. Sadly did not enjoy this book as much as I expected, it is nonetheless a very good first novel. It is well constructed, the writing is concise and evocative - there are fabulous sentences, but they do not add up to fabulous chapters. Unfortunately the characters don't quite manage to break free, they seem to keep tripping up over the complicated storyline and the abrupt flashbacks.. Paul Tomm lacks depth, it is hard to feel for him al-idrisi is not sufficiently 'constructed' for the two stories to weave into a seemless whole.. The professor and Joe his nephew were fabulous, indeed a scene near the end of the book over a lamb tagine was crisp and evoking (it made me hungry!) but this did not happen enough.. While I could not really bring myself to be enchanted by the story, I loved the descriptions of the 14 objects, indeed they helped me figure out where I was in the story! and certain sentences were extremely beautiful. For a first novel, it is very good, just not as fabulous as I had expected, I'll be eager to read his second book when it comes out, I am sure I'll enjoy it more! (NB I too enjoyed it more than the Rule of Four)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2005

    COMPELLING, COMPLEX AND FASCINATING

    For a voice performer reading a story that spans centuries, cultures, and continents must be a challenge. Those familiar with the work of actor/writer Scott Brick know that he's more than up to the greatest of performing feats. He never falls into the trap of trying to adopt accents in delivering this fascinating story but rather gives a studied, natural reading of a compelling but complex narrative. Related in a series of linked tales, the story actually begins in the 12th century with the burglary of the court Geographer's Library. A Sicilian thief has made off with a treasure - the secrets of alchemy, methods of transmutation which are eventually strewn about the world. Segue to centuries later in a small New England community where novice reporter, Paul Tomm, is assigned to write the obituary of a local professor, Jaan Puhapaev. All seems copacetic until the coroner performing the autopsy on the late academic mysteriously dies. It's not long before we learn that the relics stolen hundreds of years ago have surfaced again. Obviously, Tomm is on to the story of a lifetime, but he must do a great deal of tracking and risk venturing into dark places to find the artifacts in question. There is a beautiful woman who knew Puhapaev well; she holds a secret or two. Those who enjoyed The Da Vinci Code will be enthralled with this auspicious debut. Listeners will be caught by the magnetism of Scott Brick's reading.

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    Posted May 15, 2010

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    Posted March 19, 2011

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    Posted December 29, 2009

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    Posted May 10, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2008

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