allen kurzweil:
 the grand complication (hyperion)
As the title implies, The Grand Complication is a mystery with all the exciting trimmings such a work involves. This work however is likely far removed from any mystery novel plot you have ever read. It involves enough twists, turns, and misunderstandings to make even Shakespeare proud.

The story begins with Alex Short, a research librarian, in a large New York City public library. While this sounds like a drab start, you will find yourself quickly drawn into a world few even know exist in libraries. A world wholly composed of petty politics, strict hierarchical procedures, individual eccentricities, and obscure works of literature. Into this world walks a man that changes Alex’s young life forever, Mr. Henry James Jesson III.

Mr. Jesson is an anomaly in the modern world. An older man so obsessed with the past that he has no electricity or phone in his posh townhouse and has never even used a computer. However, he finds a soul mate in Alex upon learning of their shared interest in making lists and obscure literature. In their first meeting Mr. Jesson offers to hire Alex as a research assistant for a project on which he is working. A project that begins a strange journey leading to personal triumphs and heart-rending disceptions.

Mr. Jesson, in addition to his other quirks, is a collector of all sorts of items with compartments. The project for which he hires Alex involves completing a shadow-box collection of 18th century items. Alex’s research leads him to discover the single item missing from the collection is an extremely rare item called the Grand Complication. His obsession to retrieve this item for Mr. Jesson leads to burglary, almost destroying his marriage, and deceiving his closest friends.

The Grand Complication is one of those rare books that is both exciting and cerebral. Its plot is unique, characters bizarre, and it never falls back on the common mystery devices. Definitely one of the best books I have read in quite some time.

Charlie Bradshaw

read more in books...