Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

The case of the missing books, by Ian Sansom

Second paragraph of third chapter:
Back at the council offices Linda Wei had got him to sign several forms on the dotted line, and had issued him with papers and instructions as to his exact role and responsibilities, and details of bank accounts had been confirmed, and then it had taken him an hour - a whole hour - to find Ted's Cabs following Linda's directions wandering up and down the endless grey-black streets of Tumdrum, which meant that in total he'd been on his vast trek now from London to here for nearly two days - two whole days - and when he finally made it to the so-called offices of Ted's Cabs, it turned out to be nothing more than a large shiplap and corrugated-iron shed on a patch of weedy waste ground next to a barbed-wired electricity sub-station on the edge of Tumdrum. There was a red neon sign attached to the roof of the shed, flashing TED'S CABS into the cold Northern Irish sky, and as he got closer Israel could see a faded motto painted on hardboard in a wobbly hand which hung on chains down and across the front of the shed, and which was banging forcefully in the high winter winds: IF YOU WANT TO GET THERE, announced the flapping sign, CALL THE BEAR.
To my surprise, this book that I had never heard of turned out to be the best known book set in Northern Ireland when I did my survey last year. It's the first of a series; I must say I don't think I'll bother with the rest - there's a little too much pointing and laughing at the funny Irish people, and the actual plot is wafer-thin. In particular, the treatment of local politics is completely ludicrous; libraries in Northern Ireland are not actually under the control of local councils, and any local council that treated its staff the way Tumdrum council treats Israel Armstrong, the novel's Jewish protagonist, would get hauled in front of an employment tribunal pretty rapidly. The model I guess is the old Moyle council, if it had had some larger towns than Ballycastle in it, with added layers of Troubles trauma which seem to have left remarkably little impact on local politics. I guess people who like whimsy in an Ulster accent will like this, and good luck to them.
Tags: bookblog 2016, world: northern ireland
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