Israel Armstrong is a passionate soul, lured to Ireland by the promise of an exciting new career. Alas, the job that awaits him is not quite what he had in mind. Still, Israel is not one to dwell on disappointment, as he prepares to drive a mobile library around a small, damp Irish town. After all, the scenery is lovely, the people are charming – but where are the books? The rolling library’s 15,000 volumes have mysteriously gone missing, and it’s up to Israel to discover who would steal them….and why. And perhaps, after that, he will tackle other bizarre and perplexing local mysteries – like, where does one go to find a proper cappuccino and a decent newspaper?
He began properly unpacking the rest of his belongings from his old brown suitcase….it was books mostly, some clean underwear, and then more books, and books, and books, and books, the ratio of books to underwear being about 20:1, book being really the great constant and companion in Israel’s life; they were always there for you, books, like a small pet dog that doesn’t die; they weren’t like people; they weren’t treacherous or unreliable and they didn’t work late at the office on important projects or go skiing with their friends at Christmas. Since childhood Israel had been tormented by a terrible fear of being caught somewhere and having no books with him to read, a terrible prospect which had been realized only two occasions…” (page 116)
Israel had grown up in and around libraries. Libraries were where he belonged. Libraries to Israel had always been a constant. In libraries Israel had always known calm and peace; in libraries he’d always seemed to be able to breathe a little easier. When he walked through the doors of a library it was like entering a sacred space, like the Holy of Holies: the beautiful hush and the shunting of the brass-handled wooden drawers holding the card catalogues, the reassurance of the reference books and the eminent OEDs, the amusing little troughs of children’s books; all human life was there, and you could borrow it and take it home for two weeks at a time, nine books per person per card.” (page 11-12)