Review: Mr Dixon Disappears by Ian Sansom

Title: Mr Dixon Disappears (the second book in the Mobile Library Series)

Author: Ian Sansom

Publisher: Harper Perennial [2006]

ISBN: 0-00-720700-X

Length: 253 pages

Genre: amateur sleuth

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

My rating: 3.5/5

One-liner: A gentle, body-free tale for those who enjoy words being put together well.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Israel Armstrong is the librarian for the Tumdrum and District Mobile Library, Northern Ireland. One Saturday morning he arrives at Dixon and Pickering’s Department Store to set up his acclaimed five-panel touring exhibition of the store’s history to find the store’s proprietor, Mr Dixon, has disappeared and someone’s stolen all the cash from the safe. The Police arrest Israel for the crimes and when he’s released on bail he has to try to solve the case using techniques gleaned from a random selection of crime fiction and with the help of Ted the local cabbie (and general odd-job man).

If you are looking for a book with an engaging and intriguing plot to keep you up past bed time I would suggest you go elsewhere because you won’t find one here. Honestly, the entire thing can be summed up in two paragraphs and even then is a bit contrived to be sensible.

However, if you can put aside your need for story for a couple of hours and just enjoy the beauty of funny, well constructed sentences and some charming characterisations then I highly recommend the book. Sansom was (or possibly still is) a columnist for The Guardian and he brings the same kind of wry, observational wit and love of language to the writing here.  Just after he is released on bail Israel is driven back to Tumdrum

Tumdrum! What can you say about Tumdrum?

An impartial observer – and indeed Israel himself until this morning – might perhaps have said that the best thing you could say about Tumdrum was that it wasn’t actually offensive…Tumdrum was not really the kind of place that inspired you to want to stick around for too long: it was  not the kind of place that threw its arms around visitors and offered you a hundred thousand welcomes: it was more the kind of place that made you want to check the bus timetable to find out when the next bus might be leaving.

But to Israel, now, this morning, Tumdrum was like Shangri-La.

There are some delightful characters in the book too and even though they initially might present as absurd you really ought not dismiss them as such because they all, in their way, offer insight on their world and the people in it. Whether it be the Reverend Roberts who cheekily introduces an element of showmanship into his Easter service or Robbo the local version of a radio shock jock Sansom uses his characters to make some shrewd observations about people.

I suspect It’s not the sort of book that everyone will like  but language lovers and people who’ve seen enough dead bodies for a while will enjoy this one.

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3 Responses to Review: Mr Dixon Disappears by Ian Sansom

  1. Bernadette – I know exactly what you mean about reading a book for the words and the language : ). As a linguist, myself, I always appreciate a good turn of phrase. When the writing’s engaging like that, I can forgive some other faults. Not sure about lack of a strong, taut plot though… ; )


  2. Cathy says:

    I read the first book in this series and came very close to throwing it against a wall, so I have to admit that I’m not tempted a bit by this author.


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