Mr. Dixon a member of the Ulster Association of Magicians, has gone missing—along with one hundred thousand pounds in cash. Israel Armstrong, bighearted and overly inquisitive, should stick to delivering library books to out-of-the-way readers and not get involved in the investigation. But of course, he can't help himself—which costs him his job and earns him a place of dishonor among the police's prime suspects. Can Israel clear his name and get his van back? Will the exhibition of old local photos he's been driving around County Antrim offer clues to Mr. D.'s whereabouts? And is a romance in the offing with winsome barmaid Rosie Hart?
Mr. Dixon Disappears is the second Mobile Library Mystery book and once again, while has some charming humor, the plot is absurd, with Israel quickly accused of the crime -and it’s startling how quickly a small municipality not only wrongly accuses Armstrong of a crime, but is so indifferent to his obvious innocence, it makes the police look like total idiots. But am I missing the point here? Is Sansom spoofing the typical British mysteries of yesteryear, with its eccentric towns folk and with a bumbling hero who stumbles from one ridiculous place to another? Again, what am I missing?
Plus, it’s not even Israel who realizes what happened to Mr. Dixon. Still, there one rather brilliant observation in the book that made me sort of question my reading life:
Israel “had always believed that reading was good for you, that the more books you read somehow the better you were, the closer to some ideal of human perfection you came, yet if anything his own experience at the library suggested the exact opposite: that reading didn't make you a better person, that it just made you short-sighted, and even less likely than your fellow man or woman to be able to hold a conversation about anything that did not centre around you and your ailments and the state of the weather. Could all that really be true? Did it matter? That the striving after knowledge, the attempt to understand human minds and human nature, and stories, and narrative shapes and patterns, made you no better a person? That the whole thing was an illusion? That books were not a mirror of nature or a mark of civilisation, but a chimera? That the reading of books was in fact nothing more than a kind of mental knitting, or like the monotonous eating of biscuits, a pleasant way of passing time before you died? All those words about words, and texts about texts, and all nothing more than tiny splashes of ink.”
It’s here, when Sansom ponders this extensional world of reading, that the book becomes interesting. But I still can’t care about anyone of these characters, with the exception of Brian (or Brownie), the only one I can see here that has any real human empathy. Sadly, he is missing from this book and there times as I read this, I wondered what he was up to at university.