"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."--BOOK JACKET.
I didn't like the character. The librarian was the representation of the stereotype of librarian, obsessive,dull and stuck up ( I work in a library and very few of the librarian actually fits that description). The patron who hired him was far from being an excentric, but was clearly disturbed.
Overall.... not a book I would suggest to anyone.
Alllen Kurzweil has written an intriguing page-turner of a tome. Our hero, Alexander Short, reminds me of Indiana Jones if he was the kind of guy who hunted for relics by using library slips and zip tubes (these tubes move books from the library stacks to the front desk). He is lured into a search for The Grand Complication-by a roguishly eccentric collector, Henry James Jesson III.
Short, being a reference librarian with a compulsive disorder to make lists of everything in a journal knotted to his clothes, is the perfect pawn to Jesson's puppetmaster. He resolutely pursues the Grand Complication, from its disappearance in a cabinet of curiosities to a theft in Jerusalem . . . jeopardizing his job and his marriage.
The third note-worthy protagonist in this book is the library itself and its bizarre characters and routines: George Speaight, the Librarian of Sexual Congress (actually the curator of a collection initially funded by a pornographer), Emil Dinthofer who keeps threatening to send Short to a bookmobile in Amish country; Finster Dapples, the Genealogy specialist who teaches us a lot about how to create a coat of arms, Irving Grote, the head of Conservation who goes head-to-head against Mr. Paradis, the autodidactic janitor in a library competition that tests their knowledge of the Dewey Decimal system . . . and there's even the Sabretooths, a football team who become the recipients of a most unusual book tour.
There's an enthralling energy to this novel that you don't expect when you consider that most of the action happens among books and paper products. Kurzweil also has a magical grasp of the macguffin and he neatly pulls off the difficult trick of entertaining as he educates us in the intricacies of full body tattoos, timepieces, heraldic self-invention, and the use of a ham sandwich as a criminal diversion.
I can't recommend this book highly enough - please read it!
A strange man approaches Zander at the reference desk of the library and asks for his help in locating a missing object that would complete a collection for him. He is soon drawn into a world in which nothing is as it appears.
I loved this smart, well-written book. I found all the library references, including numerous Dewey Decimal classifications, interesting. However, those less enamored with libraries may find it a bit annoying.
As his investigations heat up, Alexander realises there are more secrets lurking in Jesson's cloistered world than those found in his elegant Manhattan town house."
An interesting example of those with an interest in the more detailed parts of librianship (e.g. competing in games around the Dewey Decimal system), whilst investigating the theft and existance of some more obscure examples of watches. Finale gives the impression there could be a follow up, but nothing on Amazon yet.....
This is a mystery written for people who like to read about people doing research, or who enjoy books filled with literary allusions and jokes. I was mildly enjoying it, but it pretty much falls apart in the third act. If you like books about books, or if you worship libraries and librarians, you may like this book. But I imagine its appeal is fairly narrow.
Kurzweil is a powerfully evocative writer. His scenes in the research library make you feel like you can reach out and touch the books (and oh! such books: Secret Compartments in Eighteenth-Century Furniture, The Universal Penman, Hints on Husband Catching, or A Manual for Marriageable Misses—and that’s just from the first 30 pages). Jesson’s home is described in all of its opulent splendor, with special attention given to yards of books and the shelving thereof (are you sensing a pattern?). Thankfully, even non-book-oriented places are described well.
When an author is this attentive to setting, character can sometimes be lost. But Kurzweil sidesteps this trap neatly, giving us a cast of exuberantly eccentric characters who nonetheless manage to ring true. Everyone from the petty research library bureaucrats to the narrator’s tempestuous girlfriend is limned with just enough detail to make their various eccentricities believable.
The Grand Complication is a Chinese treasure-box of a novel—just when you’re certain you know what’s going on, you find another hidden compartment with new information in it. The writing is beautiful, the plot is compelling, and the characters are a joy to spend time with. Stop listening to me natter on about it and pick it up for yourself. I think you’ll enjoy the read.