Narrated by Alexander Short, a stylish young reference librarian of arcane interests, The Grand Complication propels the reader through a card catalog of desperation and delight, of intrigue and theft. It's a novel of suspense that comes full circle, with a clock-maker's precision and a storyteller's surprise, on page 360.
The account begins with Alexander's job in jeopardy and his marriage destined for the Discard shelf. Enter the improbably named Henry James Jesson III, a bibliophile who hires the librarian for some after-hours research. The task: to render whole an incomplete cabinet of wonders chronicling the life of a mysterious eighteenth-century inventor. As the investigation heats up, Alexander realizes there are many more secrets lurking in Jesson's cloistered world than those found inside his elegant Manhattan town house. With a notebook tethered to his jacket, Alexander plunges headlong into the search, only to discover that the void in the cabinet is rivaled by an emptiness in his heart.
A delicious compendium of quirky colleagues, erotic pop-ups, deviant passions, and miraculous examples of theft, the book is a grand and complicated "timepiece," told with a devilish sense of fun.
THE SEARCH BEGAN with a library call slip and the gracious query of an elegant man.
"I beg your pardon," said the man, bowing ever so slightly. "Might I steal a moment of your time?"
He deposited his slip on the reference desk and turned it so that the lettering would face me. And if this unusual courtesy wasn't enough to attract attention, there was also the matter of his handwriting a gorgeous old-fashioned script executed with confident ascenders and tapering exit strokes as well as the title of the book he requested. Secret Compartments in Eighteenth-Century Furniture played right to my fascination with objects of enclosure.
"Let's see what we can do for you, Mr. " I double-checked the bottom of the slip before uttering his improbably literary name. "Henry James Jesson III."
After I had directed him to the tube clerk, curiosity got the best of me, so I rang the stack supervisor and asked that she expedite retrieval. In a further ...
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