Jon Fasman,
The Geographer's Library
(Penguin, 2005)

Forget that old chestnut, The DaVinci Code; this is the book to read for 2006.

I suppose we have a lot to thank Dan Brown for. Apart from a plethora of cash-in and pretty awful books about ancient mysteries, conspiracies and murder, there have been a few new gems in the genre. Jon Fasman has produced one of those very good reads.

Instead of Italy, we have Estonia and the Soviet Union. Instead of the Catholic Church, we get alchemy. But, best of all, instead of Rome or Paris, we get small-town America and a relatively light-hearted first-person story.

In alternate chapters we have modern New England with a cub reporter following a story. In the others we trawl through history of the past millennium tracing artifacts. We learn wonderful snippets of the times when half the world was unknown. We move closer to modern times with lovely little self-contained incidents that feed into the whole story.

New England is brilliantly drawn as Paul Tomm investigates what appears at first to be the far-from-mysterious death of a college professor. Tomm just wants to write up the obituary for his small-town newspaper. But along the way we meet eccentric pathologists, weird folk in ever more weird drinking clubs, the obligatory misunderstood cop with a heart in the right place and, of course, the mysterious woman. There are "laugh out loud" sections in this book as Tomm describes his quest, as well as thought-provoking sections. But, throughout the 500-plus pages, there is always page-turning suspense.

This book is great read.

by Nicky Rossiter
19 August 2006

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