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101 of 115 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alchemy Meets Small-Town Journalism in this Great Debut
"The Geographer's Library" skilfully weaves together two story lines: the first being a present-day mystery about a deceased college professor, and the second a series of historical vignettes about fourteen antiquities that were stolen from a geographer's library in the twelfth century. The geographer al-Idris also dabbled in alchemy, and the ancient objects were all...
Published on March 7, 2005 by L. Kelly

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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Competently written, but disappointing
As others have mentioned, there are two stories here: the present-day mystery and the ancient story related to alchemy.

The mystery surrounding the death of Jaan is competently told, but it didn't engage me probably because of the hapless nature of the main character, Paul, and because this plot is relatively simple and uninteresting. The intersection of this...
Published on September 8, 2005 by Joshua E. Simons


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101 of 115 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alchemy Meets Small-Town Journalism in this Great Debut, March 7, 2005
By 
"The Geographer's Library" skilfully weaves together two story lines: the first being a present-day mystery about a deceased college professor, and the second a series of historical vignettes about fourteen antiquities that were stolen from a geographer's library in the twelfth century. The geographer al-Idris also dabbled in alchemy, and the ancient objects were all used in this science. From the first pages of the novel, I was hooked on both stories, and the pages simply flew past.

The editorial review here on Amazon compared this book to "The DaVinci Code", but in my opinion this book is far more enjoyable. The characterization of the Connecticut protagonists is well-done. But my favorite part of the book is the background on the fourteen objects that were once part of the famous scholar al-Idris' library in Sicily. I whole-heartedly disagree with the reviewer who dismissed this part of the book as "too much information."

Author Fasman carefully develops the plot, tying together the connection between the ancient alchemical tools and the death of the mysterious Estonian professor in Connecticut. This story is full of beautiful prose and is a finely crafted mystery. I'd recommend it to all.
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58 of 66 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Intellect than Action, April 24, 2005
By 
Gary Griffiths (Los Altos Hills, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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"The Geographer's Library" is one of many new releases that have been favorably compared to "The DaVinci Code." It is not that. Alan Furst, the accomplished author of WWII espionage thrillers, describes Jon Fasman's first novel as "a real reader's book." It is definitely that. While lacking the adrenalin-charged pace of DaVinci Code, "Geographer" is a cleverly conceived, intelligent novel illuminating the ancient and shadowy art of alchemy. Paul Tomm, a young journalist for a rural Connecticut weekly paper, sets out on a supposedly simple assignment to write the obituary of town resident and college professor Jann Puhapaev. Puhapaev's death - and life, as it turns out - are shrouded in mystery, and Tomm is drawn into a deliciously convoluted plot spanning a millennium and four continents. A number of priceless artifacts, stolen from the alchemist of the 11th century's King of Sicily, begin showing up in unlikely places. With the help of a former professor and his policeman brother, Tomm begins connecting the dots while attracting some unwanted and malevolent attention. This is a risky venue, accomplished with aplomb in Dan Brown's "DaVinci", while more often attempts to capture Brown's formula have bogged down in hip-deep minutia and laughingly improbable plots. While Fasman's effort borders at times on tedium, there is sufficient mystery and intrigue to keep the reader hooked to the climax. "The Geographer's Library" could have benefited from a more ruthless editor's cut of another fifty pages or so, but this is nonetheless an impressive debut, well worth the reader's time and attention.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Competently written, but disappointing, September 8, 2005
By 
Joshua E. Simons (Sharon, MA United States) - See all my reviews
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As others have mentioned, there are two stories here: the present-day mystery and the ancient story related to alchemy.

The mystery surrounding the death of Jaan is competently told, but it didn't engage me probably because of the hapless nature of the main character, Paul, and because this plot is relatively simple and uninteresting. The intersection of this story with the ancient story could have made it a much more interesting mystery, except that the ancient story was the biggest disappointment in the book.

It was disappointing because the author failed to develop the sense of wonder and excitement around the ancient objects that might have made the story compelling and interesting. In fact, the objects which play such a large role in the text play virtually no role at all in the plot, which I found very puzzling and frustrating. I waited in vain for the book to tie these objects to the plot, to make them relevant and interesting.

Here's another way of expressing why I was disappointed. I felt like there might have been a centuries-long, fascinating story that tied all of the objects together---but that I was sitting on the very periphery of that story with only a few not very interesting glimpses of that story as they reflected on the rather mundane present-day mystery plot.

I don't recommend this book.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating Intellectual Mystery, May 29, 2008
Captivating Intellectual Mystery

Review of: "The Geographers Library"

By: Jon Fasman

This is one of my all time favorite books.

It starts in a routine job setting for a recent college graduate. Paul Tomm works for a small town newspaper. Paul gets a reporting assignment for his paper. He is to write an obituary of a local academic. Nothing about the story turns out to be routine. Events gain inertia ahead of Paul and snowball out of control. His life is never the same.

This story is a superb treasure hunt story and an intriguing murder mystery. Although the genre is similar, it is much better than "The Da Vinci Code" or "The Rule of Four."

It is unfortunate that the story has a surface resemblance to the "Da Vinci Code" because "The Geographer's Library" is a far better book. Fasman gives the reader more to think about while solving the mystery.

The story revolves around a set of ancient artifacts. I found the description of the artifacts entertaining, although tangential to the story. Another reader thought the descriptions were formal and distracting. The physical description of artifacts is detailed and is not central to the mystery. If you don't like these descriptions just skim them.

See also: The Unpossessed City: A Novel

I was captivated by "The Geographer's Library" and unreservedly recommend it to others.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating Intellectual Mystery, May 29, 2008
Captivating Intellectual Mystery

Review of: "The Geographers Library"

By: Jon Fasman

This is one of my all time favorite books.

It starts in a routine job setting for a recent college graduate. Paul Tomm works for a small town newspaper. Paul gets a reporting assignment for his paper. He is to write an obituary of a local academic. Nothing about the story turns out to be routine. Events gain inertia ahead of Paul and snowball out of control. His life is never the same.

This story is a superb treasure hunt story and an intriguing murder mystery. Although the genre is similar, it is much better than "The Da Vinci Code" or "The Rule of Four."

It is unfortunate that the story has a surface resemblance to the "Da Vinci Code" because "The Geographer's Library" is a far better book. Fasman gives the reader more to think about while solving the mystery.

The story revolves around a set of ancient artifacts. I found the description of the artifacts entertaining, although tangential to the story. Another reader thought the descriptions were formal and distracting. The physical description of artifacts is detailed and is not central to the mystery. If you don't like these descriptions just skim them.

See also: The Unpossessed City: A Novel

I was captivated by "The Geographer's Library" and unreservedly recommend it to others.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating Intellectual Mystery, May 29, 2008
Captivating Intellectual Mystery

Review of: "The Geographers Library"

By: Jon Fasman

This is one of my all time favorite books.

It starts in a routine job setting for a recent college graduate. Paul Tomm works for a small town newspaper. Paul gets a reporting assignment for his paper. He is to write an obituary of a local academic. Nothing about the story turns out to be routine. Events gain inertia ahead of Paul and snowball out of control. His life is never the same.

This story is a superb treasure hunt story and an intriguing murder mystery. Although the genre is similar, it is much better than "The Da Vinci Code" or "The Rule of Four."

It is unfortunate that the story has a surface resemblance to the "Da Vinci Code" because "The Geographer's Library" is a far better book. Fasman gives the reader more to think about while solving the mystery.

The story revolves around a set of ancient artifacts. I found the description of the artifacts entertaining, although tangential to the story. Another reader thought the descriptions were formal and distracting. The physical description of artifacts is detailed and is not central to the mystery. If you don't like these descriptions just skim them.

See also: The Unpossessed City: A Novel

I was captivated by "The Geographer's Library" and unreservedly recommend it to others.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An enthralling book, February 9, 2005
By 
Doctor Miles (Toronto, Canada) - See all my reviews
Mr Fasman's first book holds wonders: it is a thrilling and intelligent mystery, a trip around the world and a wonderful portrait of post-collegiate malaise. With all due respect to our German reviewer, who seems to use the book simply to sneer at Americans (something we Canadians know a little about) Mr Fasman's characters are profoundly well-detailed and variant; not all of them speak like Americans at all, nor is this a James Bond story. Despite the author's youth, it has a seasoned Eastern European feeling, and contains some of the finest prose I have read in a long time. Very highly recommended to all readers of historical fiction and mysteries: if you like Umberto Eco, Haruki Murakami, or John Fowles, you will love this.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating Intellectual Mystery, May 29, 2008
Captivating Intellectual Mystery

Review of: "The Geographers Library"

By: Jon Fasman

This is one of my all time favorite books.

It starts in a routine job setting for a recent college graduate. Paul Tomm works for a small town newspaper. Paul gets a reporting assignment for his paper. He is to write an obituary of a local academic. Nothing about the story turns out to be routine. Events gain inertia ahead of Paul and snowball out of control. His life is never the same.

This story is a superb treasure hunt story and an intriguing murder mystery. Although the genre is similar, it is much better than "The Da Vinci Code" or "The Rule of Four."

It is unfortunate that the story has a surface resemblance to the "Da Vinci Code" because "The Geographer's Library" is a far better book. Fasman gives the reader more to think about while solving the mystery.

The story revolves around a set of ancient artifacts. I found the description of the artifacts entertaining, although tangential to the story. Another reader thought the descriptions were formal and distracting. The physical description of artifacts is detailed and is not central to the mystery. If you don't like these descriptions just skim them.

See also: The Unpossessed City: A Novel

I was captivated by "The Geographer's Library" and unreservedly recommend it to others.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Until the End, March 15, 2006
This review is from: The Geographer's Library (Paperback)
This entry in the intellectual thriller stakes is a beautifully written book which kept me engrossed all the way up until the bitterly disappointing corner first-time novelist Fasman paints himself into. The engrossing story proceeds on two tracks which unravel via alternating chapters. The main plotline is set in a small town in Connecticut, where fairly bright recent college grad Paul Tomm passes the time working at the rinky-dink town newspaper. The local death of a reclusive Estonian history professor piques his interest, and he starts nosing around the story. Since the man taught at Paul's alma mater and was a colleague of Paul's advisor, he manages to enlist the considerable aid of the sharp advisor in learning more about the mysterious Estonian. At the same time, a pretty older woman catches Paul's eye, and the semi-bashful young man enters into a suspiciously intense relationship with her.

Meanwhile, the alternating chapters unveil the second storyline, which starts some nine-hundred years previously with the life of the famed Arab geographer, al-Idrisi. Fasman casts the (real life) descendent of the Prophet Muhammad as an alchemist whose collection of powerful objects was purloined by a Sicilian burglar and then dispersed around the world. Ranging across the world and time, each chapter picks up the story of one of the objects in the intervening 900 years, and shows how it has been tracked down and acquired, along with details on its manufacture and even a drawing. Although it takes a while to emerge, by the final third of the book it becomes apparent that the objects are being reunited by some unseen hand.

Of course the two storylines eventually dovetail, and Paul finds himself entangled in a centuries-long struggle for knowledge. This all works quite well until events come to a head and Fasman is forced to either have Paul reveal the supernatural workings of alchemy for all the world to see, or fade quietly into the night, unable to prove anything. The ending takes the more plausible route, which is also the one best in keeping with the overall tone, but it's not particularly satisfying. The one other substantial quibble I would have is that the relationship between Paul and the woman is so obviously off-kilter that it's hard to believe he wouldn't become suspicious of her. His youth and inexperience are meant to explain this away, but it's hard to buy when, as the reader, you smell a rat from the first time she appears. In any event, it's still a very entertaining and exceedingly well-written novel, and if you enter it with low expectations concerning the ending, it should prove an enjoyable read.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant first novel from Jon Fasman, February 8, 2005
By 
Judgehte (Washington, DC United States) - See all my reviews
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The "Geographer's Library" is a historically rich debut mystery by Jon Fasman. Readers who enjoy esoteric historical mysteries will really enjoy Fasman's offering and find themselves hooked until the final secrets of the mystery are revealed.

Fasman lays out the story slowly and carefully. His writing is bright, colorful, and intelligent; and it is uniformly interesting in its details and gripping in the mystery that it weaves. The main narrative follows Paul Tomm, a young reporter working for a small-town newspaper. A college professor dies, and Tomm is assigned to write the obituary. Unsurprisingly, Tomm's assignment entails more work than a typical death notice. I will not reveal the details of Tomm's investigation, lest I give away the secrets of the mystery.

Tomm's first-person story alternates with chapters that comprise the contents of a "library" put together by a 12th century figure, nobly named Yussef Hadras ibn Azzam Abd Salih Jafar Khalid Idris. The library chapters detail various exotic objects that have a relation to the practice of alchemy. Each chapter tells a story about the object's origins and its current situation. It is clear that the library contents and Tomm's investigation are intriguing connected.

Fasman takes the reader to many sites around the world: Córdoba, Baghdad, Bukhara, Mikkouni, the Khamantor Mountains of the Khazars, the cities of Yazd, Eshahan, Ahvaz, Dimashq, Beirut and Jerusalem, the islands of Sicily, Malta and Minorca, and, of course, New England, where Tomm is living and working to unravel the mystery of the professor's death. It is a fascinating journey for the reader, involving numerous interesting characters and engrossing situations. The book is a sheer joy to read, not just to find out whodunit, but to enjoy the many stories within the main story. The journey to the end of the tale is as much fun as the tale itself.

In his review in the LA Times, Allen Kurzweil aptly says: "Alchemy, Fasman tells us more than once, is the science of transformation. Good fiction aspires to the same lofty goal, and it is achieved in 'The Geographer's Library,' a cabinet of wonders written by a novelist whose surname and sensibility fit comfortably on the shelf between Umberto Eco and John Fowles." I agree.
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The Geographer's Library
The Geographer's Library by Jon Fasman (Paperback - February 28, 2006)
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