Israel Armstrong, one of literature’s most unlikely detectives, returns for more crime solving adventure in this hilarious second novel from ‘The Mobile Library’ series.The second in the ‘The Mobile Library ‘ detective series, ‘Mr Dixon Disappears’ once again features the magnificently hapless Israel Armstrong – the young, Jewish, duffle-coat wearing librarian who solves crimes, mysteries, and domestic problems all whilst driving a mobile library around the coast of Northern Ireland.Dixon and Pickering's, County Antrim's legendary department store, is preparing to celebrate its centenary. But the elderly Mr Dixon – a member of the Ulster Association of Magicians – has gone missing, along with one hundred thousand pounds in cash. It smells, pretty badly, of a kidnap.Israel becomes a suspect in the police investigation and is suspended from his job by his boss, the ever-fearsome Linda Wei. He's having to fight to clear his name.Does Israel's acclaimed five-panel touring exhibition showing the history of Dixon and Pickering's in old photographs and artefacts perhaps hold the key to Mr Dixon's mysterious disappearance? Will romance blossom between Israel and Rosie Hart, the barmaid at the First and Last? Will Linda Wei stick to her diet? And has nobody here heard of Franz Kafka? All will be revealed in this hilarious and endlessly inventive sequel to ‘The Case of the Missing Books’.
About the Author
Ian Sansom reviews regularly for the Guardian and the London Review of Books. His first book, The Truth About Babies, was published by Granta in 2002, and his second, Ring Road, by Fourth Estate in 2004.
Read an Excerpt
Mr. Dixon Disappears
A Mobile Library Mystery
He was sick of the excuses and the lies. He was tired of the evasions and the untruths, of people refusing to stand up and speak the truth and take responsibility for their own actions. It seemed to him like yet another symptom of the decline of Western civilisation; of chaos; and climate change; and environmental disaster; and war; disease; famine; oppression; the eternal slow slide down and down and down. It was entropy, nemesis, apotheosis, imminent apocalypse and sheer bad manners all rolled into one.
People were not returning their library books on time.
'I'm sorry, I forgot,' people would say.
And, 'I've been in hospital.'
Or, 'I liked it so much I lent it to my sister.' (Or my brother, or my mother, or my father, or my cousin, or my friend, who lives up country, or in Derry, or over there in England, actually, and isn't that where you're from?)
Or, 'Sure, I brought it back already.'
Or, 'No. I don't think so. I never had that one out.'
Or, 'I put it back on the shelves myself. Some other one must have it out now.'
Or, 'Someone stole it.'
Or, 'I left it on the bus.' Or in the bath, or on holiday, or in the car and it's in for servicing.
And, even, once, 'It was a bad book, full of bad language and bad people doing bad things, so I threw it away.' (Well, what the hell did Mrs Onions expect, borrowing Last Exit to Brooklyn? Israel had asked her, after he'd got her to pay the replacement cost of the book, and a fine, and had steered her safely back towards her usual large-print romanticfiction, and it turned out she had a cousin who'd emigrated to New York back in the sixties and she'd never visited and she was toying with the idea of a trip over for her seventieth birthday and she'd wanted to find out what it was like over there, and frankly, there was no chance of her visiting now after reading that filth, they were going to go to Donegal for a few days instead, to see her sister, down in Gweedore, which was quite far enough, and did Israel know if Frank McCourt had written any others?)
But mostly when they were challenged about their overdue or unreturned books, the good people of Tumdrum would just narrow their eyes and look at you with a blank expression and purse their lips and say, 'Book? What book?'
It wasn't funny. It was cracking him up.
He patted his face with cold water and stared at himself, freshly shaved, in the mirror hung on a nail above the makeshift sink.
He squinted at himself.
In his teens and even into his early twenties Israel had spent a lot of time looking into mirrors, trying to work out whether he was good-looking or not, which was quite a project, a hobby almost; he could have spent hours at it. Was his nose perhaps a little too large, his eyes a little too narrow, his lips too full, his ears not quite right? Pressing, important and immense as those questions had once appeared to be, they no longer seemed to bother him, he didn't know why—he supposed that maybe there comes a time in every man's life when he makes up his mind and decides one way or another about the cut of his own jib and has to learn to live with it, and maybe he'd reached that point, or maybe Tumdrum had just cured him of himself. Either way, it didn't seem to bother him any more, the question of whether he was good-looking or not. What bothered him now was: am I there at all? Or, where am I? He often found himself glancing at himself in the wing-mirror of the van, trying to catch himself out, trying to locate himself, checking for signs of life.
He tried to think who it was he reminded himself of: his father? No. Not his father. Israel was too wide and too plush, too messy: the glasses; the nose; the unruly hair. His dad had always been well turned-out; he was more sports-casual, his dad. Israel reminded himself more of the father of one of his best friends from school, a man who was an art lecturer at a sixth-form college, a tense, fragile, bitter man who wore cords during the week and who had books in the house and who sometimes listened to jazz and blues, and who drank wine to excess, and because Israel's own dad was just a boring old accountant and a moderate man and pretty much happy with his lot in life and with his pastel pullovers and his slacks, it was this stubbly, corduroy-wearing, French-film-watching saddo who had come to represent what Israel thought of as the fully-formed adult male: a copy of Miles Davis's Kind of Blue and empty wine bottles and the smell of freshly ground coffee; his friend's dad had made north London seem like the Left Bank, which was where Israel had always assumed he would end up himself, sitting at a café table eating croissants and writing meditative works of philosophy.
But instead he was here, in Tumdrum, in his lodgings, in the converted chicken coop on the Devines' farm, and he looked down at the ground, down past his big white buttery belly and his cords—an old pair of Mr Devine's, phosphorescent cords, cords with a nap and shine like the glint of green on mouldy ham—and there were empty wine bottles stacked everywhere in the room, under the bed and on the dresser—Tumdrum not having yet caught up with recycling—and he had to admit, as he was getting older he was becoming partial to a bit of Miles Davis himself, and he liked his coffee in the mornings just so, if he could have got hold of fresh coffee in the mornings. He wasn't even thirty and he'd become his best friend's dad.Mr. Dixon Disappears
A Mobile Library Mystery. Copyright © by Ian Sansom. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I was elated to find this book at TLA as an advanced reader copy. Just as good as book one, I think. Now I wait for number three.
I enjoyed the first book in the series, The Case of the Missing Books, more than I did this second installment. However, Mr. Dixon Disappears does provide some laugh-out-loud moments. From London, Israel Armstrong is currently living in a rural area of Ireland serving as the bookmobile librarian. To say he is a fish out of water would be an understatement. Israel misunderstands and is misunderstood by the local residents, which often leads to those laugh-out-loud moments.Reluctantly, he has gotten himself involved in another local mystery. While setting up his five-panel display of the history of Dixon and Pickering Department Store, he becomes entangled in a missing person case and ends up a suspect himself.The book is a quick, light read, but don't expect any deep philosophical meanings or commentary on social issues. This one is purely for fun!
If you liked the first installment of this series, you will like Mr. Dixon Disappears. Israel is just as funny and frustrating, and he does some deep thinking in this one, although I suspect very little will of it help him in the details of his life as he lives it. This series reminds me a little of the Isabel Dalhousie Mysteries by Alexander McCall Smith - they are more about personalities, location, and the meandering thoughts of the main character than they are about the mystery.
The book was satisfactory, not great, until the ending. It sort of fizzled out. At least it was an easy read. I don't feel too bad about wasting my time on this.
This is the second book in Ian Sansom's Mobile Library Series. I read the fourth book first, The Bad Book Affair. The characters were very clearly laid out and you could picture the vignettes in your head. Shortly after finishing the book I ordered the rest of the series. I found all these books very entertaining. I particularly liked the interactions between Ted and Israel. I highly recommend these books for anyone who wants a little humor and and just plain entertainment.