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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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

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Ted tensed and stared at Israel fiercely. It looked for a moment as though he might actually reach out and grab Israel and throw him off the bed, but he seemed to think better of it, and instead he turned his back on him and wandered slowly round the coop, which didn’t take long—it was only one room—sniffing and poking around at the books and clothes piled on every surface. T-shirts. Toby Litt. Alice Sebold. Pants.

Israel’s ambitious program of refurbishment for the coop had stalled some time ago—his most recent acquisition, an old sofa that he’d found out in someone’s yard, was wedged tightly between the wardrobe and the Baby Belling tabletop cooker balanced precariously on a stool. The  place clearly hadn’t been cleaned or tidied for quite a while.

“He’d always the breath of a garlic eater,” said Ted, fanning his hand in front of his face in a vain attempt to dispel the room’s fumes.

“I don’t think he’s been eating much,” said George.

“No,” said Ted, removing a spoon from an open jar of peanut butter.

“Hey!” said Israel. “Leave that alone! That’s mine!”

“Shall I leave you boys to it, then?” said George.

“Yes,” said Ted. “I think that’d be best.”

“No problem,” said George. “I thought it wise to get you in, Ted. I hope you don’t mind. We were all getting a wee bit worried about him. I wasn’t sure if I should have called the doctor.”

“Don’t ye be worrying about him anymore, my dear. No need for the doctor. I’ll soon have him sorted,” said Ted.

George shut the chicken coop door behind her.

“Right, ye brallion,” said Ted, stepping briskly toward the side of Israel’s bed. “What are ye on, the auld loonie soup?”

“What?” 

“What in God’s name d’ye think ye’re doing?”

“I’m not feeling well,” said Israel. “Aye, right, me elbow. Lying in yer bed when there’s work to be done—yer head’s a marlie.”

“What?” said Israel. “What are you talking about? Bob Marley?”

“God give me strength,” said Ted. “Right. Up. Come on. It’s no good you lying there.”

“I can’t get up, Ted. I’m . . . cultivating my mind,” said Israel dreamily, stroking his beard. “Like Saint Jerome.”

“Who?”

“He’s the patron saint of libraries.”

“Patron saint of my arse. You can cultivate your mind out in the van with me. Come on.” He went to grab Israel’s arm. Israel shrank back.

“Get off! I’m on holiday,” said Israel.

“Aye,” said Ted. “Ye were. But ye’ve had your two weeks off and another week off sick.”

“I’ve not been feeling well.”

“I’m not surprised,” said Ted. “Ye been in this stinking pit the whole time?”

“More or less.”

“Right. Good. Time to get out then.” 

Ted threw the bedcovers from Israel, scattering books and toppling wine bottles in the process—merlot and Roberto Bolaño everywhere.

“Hey!”

“Up! Come on, let’s go.”

“Leave me alone!” said Israel.

“That I shall not,” said Ted. “Ye might be able to run rings round the others, but you can’t fool me.”

“I’m not trying to fool anybody.”

“ ‘We were all a bit worried about him,’ ” Ted said, mimicking George.

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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