Who says Ian Sansom writes cozies?
But Sansom's humor can have a hard edge. In Mr. Dixon Disappears, the librarian/protagonist, Israel Armstrong, undergoes a police interrogation that includes the following:
"You're called Israel and you have no connections with the state of Israel or with the Middle East?"and
"No I don't."
"So why are you called Israel?"
"I thought I'd just explained! My mother's Jewish, and she thought it was a good idea at the time. It was the 1970s. We had family there. It was all the rage."
"So you claim you have no contact with the Middle East and yet you have family there?"
"Can you name three Glens of Antrim?"
"It's funny: you claim you're not an immigrant here, Mr. Armstrong, and yet you don't seem to know very much about the country in which you're living."
The bumbling police officer is a staple of English village mysteries. Sansom keeps the humor but infuses the scene with a touch not just sinister but thoroughly contemporary.
Elsewhere, Sansom has an amateur magician describe the splintering of the area's magicians' groups into a succession of rival factions, most of whose names have three initials. Even at this late date, the jape at Northern Ireland's grim history of paramilitary factionalism has a whiff of daring about it.
And I was pleased to find that the novel contains a nod to a contemporary Irish classic that I will begin reading soon: Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman.
© Peter Rozovsky 2008