Excerpt from The Bad Book Affair by Ian Sansom, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Bad Book Affair

A Mobile Library Mystery

By Ian Sansom

The Bad Book Affair
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  • Paperback: Jan 2010,
    368 pages.

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The Bad Book Affair

Here we are, then,” said George, opening the creaking, paint-flaking, hinge-rusted, wood-rotting brace-and-ledge door to the former chicken coop that was now home to Israel Armstrong (BA, (Hons.)), certainly Tumdrum’s and possibly Ireland’s only English Jewish vegetarian mobile librarian.

“The king of Siam,” said Ted, striding in. “Let’s have a look at him, then.”

Israel lay on his metal-framed bed in the middle of the room, dirty quilt pulled up around him, broken-backed books everywhere, empty bottles of wine and Jumping Jack cider stacked around like giddy sentinels. A row of broad shouldered peanut butter jars stood lined up on top of the rickety shelves next to the bed, staring down disapprovingly at the squalor below.

Israel raised his head wearily and dismissively from his book as George and Ted entered.

“Quite a sight, eh?” said George.

“Ach, for goodness’ sake,” said Ted.

“Morning, Israel!” said George.

Israel placed his index finger on the page of Infinite Jest that he was currently reading and rereading and rereading again, looked up at his visitors, returned to the book.

“This what he’s been like the whole time, is it?”

“Well, I only came across him last week,” said George. “I was wondering why I hadn’t seen him for a while. He’d not been in the house, and I hadn’t seen him leaving for work.”

“Hmm,” said Ted, going up to the end of the bed, like a doctor on his ward rounds. “What’s with the auld face-lace then?”

“I think he’s growing a beard,” said George quietly.

“That’s always a bad sign,” said Ted.

“He might look all right with a goatee,” said George. “I wouldn’t have thought it,” said Ted. “They look all right on goats, but . . . Maybe a mustache.”

“Ach, no,” said George. “No one has a mustache these days. They went out with the Troubles.”

“More’s the pity,” said Ted. “I had a nice mustache once. Back in the day.”

“Sorry. Excuse me? Can I possibly help you two?” said Israel, rubbing his forehead as if in great pain. “You do seem to have just barged into my home here.”

“I’ve brought Ted to see you,” said George.

“I can see that,” said Israel. “And do neither of you normally knock before you enter someone’s home?”

“Don’t ye dare get sharp with me,” said Ted.

“The door was open,” said George.

Israel tutted.

“Bit of fresh air is what ye need in here,” said Ted.

“Yes,” agreed George quietly. “It is a bit . . . rich, isn’t it. It’s damp, I think. And the chickens, maybe.”

“That’s not chickens,” said Ted.

“Well, his personal hygiene,” said George, whispering. “He has let himself go a bit, recently.”

“Lost the run of himself entirely,” said Ted, picking up a discarded tank top thrown on the bed and rubbing it disdainfully between forefinger and thumb.

“I think it’s because of the split with his girlfriend,” said George.

“Ach,” said Ted. “He needs to pull his finger out.” He glanced over at Israel. “Mind ye, difficult to pull your finger out if it’s never been in.”

“Hello?” said Israel. “I don’t want to appear rude, but could you leave, please? Is that too much to ask? A little privacy here, in the comfort of my own home?”

Excerpted from The Bad Book Affair by Ian Sansom. Copyright © 2010 by Ian Sansom. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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