Penzler Pick, August 2001:
Most avid readers love everything about books--not only the words, but also the paper, the edition, the age, the texture of the binding, all of which become part of the fascination for the printed word that makes a true bibliophile. So it is no wonder that the bibliophile mystery has achieved such popularity. The Grand Complication
, well-written and well-researched, is the latest in a long line of such mysteries.
Alexander Short is a reference librarian who spends his days dealing with the minutiae of his work world. At night he goes home to his French wife who is also a book person. She makes pop-up books and other three-dimensional volumes, including a "girdle" that Alexander wears in the manner of medieval monks, tied around his middle and used for his "girdling" or taking notes--something Alexander does obsessively, to the detriment of his job. Two such people seem made for each other, but their obsessions make for a rocky marriage.
So Alexander is fascinated when he meets Henry James Jesson III, an elderly man with equally obsessive interests. He would like Alexander to help him after hours. In Jesson's Manhattan mansion there is a cabinet of curiosities that tell the life of an 18th-century inventor. But one of the compartments is empty. Jesson, and soon Alexander, are agog with curiosity about what was in that compartment. Finding out is half the fun of reading this book.
The other half, if you care (and somehow I think you do), is the design of the book itself. Kurzweil is the son of an engineer, and he designed the small icon, a gear, that appears on many of the book's pages. Over the course of the novel, which runs 360 pages, that gear turns 360 degrees. And then there are the endpapers.... --Otto Penzler
From Publishers Weekly
Using his highly acclaimed debut, A Case of Curiosities, as a springboard, Kurzweil delivers a remarkable novel a flawless blend of adventure, intellect, suspense, humor and antiquity. In the last novel, the case in question an 18th-century, glass-fronted box holding a collage of 10 objects had one empty compartment. In this work, set in modern-day New York City, a wealthy and eccentric bibliophile named Henry James Jesson III hires a witty, browbeaten employee of the New York Public Library, Alexander Short, to search for the missing object. Alexander, the sexually malfunctioning husband of a French artist who designs pop-up books, accepts the commission. Utilizing his exceptional research skills, he determines that the empty compartment once contained an 18th century timepiece made for Marie Antoinette. The watch, named "The Grand Complication" for its technical superiority, was stolen from a Jerusalem museum in 1983 and has been missing ever since. As the investigation deepens and Alexander becomes privy to the cloistered world of Jesson's elegant Manhattan townhouse, Alexander realizes that the elusive timepiece is not the only object under scrutiny. The robust cast of supporting characters includes a bawdy library director whose nickname is the "Librarian of Sexual Congress"; a Marie Antoinette groupie who once tried to steal the queen's pillow from an exhibit; and a no-nonsense businessman determined to open a museum devoted to all things obsolete. All come together with great finesse in this enchanting quest one that is sure to appeal to fans of Arturo Perez-Reverte and anyone who appreciates an intellectual romp. (Aug.)Forecast: Interest in anything Kurzweil produces should remain high, even this long after the success of A Case of Curiosities, which will receive a simultaneous paperback release. A national ad campaign and five-city author tour will help to fan the flames.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.