Fresh fiction

I’m always on the prowl for mysteries that don’t involve murder. I realize that to some, a story without a murder doesn’t qualify as a mystery, but as I’ve said before, I think there is plenty of evil that people can do aside from murder, and all of this can make compelling stories.

I recently read a murderless mystery called Mr. Dixon Disappears by the British writer Ian Sansom. The “sleuth” is a fish-out-of-water librarian named Israel Armstrong. Armstrong is a London Jew who operates a bookmobile in “the middle of the middle of nowhere in the north of the north of Northern Ireland.” In this novel the amateur magician Dixon disappears along with a great deal of money. Poor Armstrong is, of course, the prime suspect.

I had read the earlier Armstrong mystery The Case of the Missing Books in which the crime is, literally, all of the books in the town library gone missing.

In both novels, the mystery is hardly the point of the story. Just about everyone but Israel Armstong is in on the mystery, and the story is really about the exasperating and hilarious interactions this stranger in a strange land has with the locals who know so much more than he.

I’ll read more of Sansom’s mysteries (if he writes any more), and I may even be tempted to pick up some of his other novels. I’m glad that there are others who are pioneering the murderless mystery genre.

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