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The Grand Compilation: A Novel [Paperback]

Allen Kurzwell
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

7 Feb 2002
Alexander Short is a stylish young reference librarian of arcane interests who is approached by a bibliophile wanting to hire him for some research. Short's task is to render whole an incomplete cabinent of wonders chronicling the life of a mysterious 18th century inventor.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: William Heinemann Ltd (7 Feb 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0434009989
  • ISBN-13: 978-0434009985
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,293,617 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

‘A deliciously mazelike house of fiction … Every bit as entertaining as it is sophisticated and elusive.’ -- Kirkus

‘I admire this ingenious erudite book, which will enthral all lovers of books and libraries… wonderfully irreverent.’ -- Doris Lessing

Book Description

A wonderfully entertaining literary crime novel, a cross between The Name of the Rose and The Big Sleep. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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THE SEARCH BEGAN with a library call slip and the gracious query of an elegant man. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAME TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Alexander Short is a young librarian--precise and studious, with a need to catalogue and record, and on his way to becoming stuffy. But he was not always this way. His courtship and marriage to his French wife Nic, who designs pop-up books, was romantic--and spontaneous enough to have earned him a reprimand from the head of the library for his enthusiastic acceptance of her proposal on the library's electronic bulletin board. Now the marriage is in trouble, his career seems to have hit a snag, and he's holding himself and his life together by recording and alphabetizing his life experiences in a notebook he has attached to his waist. Into his life comes Henry James Jesson III, an elderly man in search of an object missing from a hidden compartment in an 18th century furniture case he owns. Short is enlisted to help in the search, and his life is suddenly turned upside down.
The book, and the research behind it, took the author ten years, and one of the greatest compliments I can pay is to say that it doesn't show. So smoothly does Kurzweil integrate all the esoteric details of compartmented antique furniture, 18th century watchmaking, library cataloguing and conservation procedures, the intricacies of fine art theft, and even Japanese irezumi tattooing, that it all feels right and appropriate, and not at all pretentious. His themes of order vs. spontaneity, life vs. stasis, permanence vs. change mesh perfectly with the search for a missing timepiece, which is what belongs in Jesson's case--a watch called The Grand Complication, which was originally commissioned by Marie Antoinette. The book's structure mirrors the intricacies of this mysterious watch, which was stolen.
As Short and Jesson conduct their search, the reader is, by turns, entertained, enlightened, and thoroughly engaged.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An intelligent mystery story 3 Nov 2006
Format:Paperback
From the moment I read the words "stylish young reference librarian", I knew that I had to buy this book, and it didn't disappoint me. Alexander is the reference librarian in question, and this story of what happens when a mysterious library patron asks him for assistance in solving a puzzle had me rapt. Alexander's relationship with his partner Nic, whom he also met in the library, is also well-observed, and the description of the Dewey Decimal quiz near the end of the book was one of my own personal high points.

I can't recommend this book highly enough - please read it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars As good as Umberto Ecco or Arturo Pérez-Reverte 27 Nov 2003
By HORAK
Format:Paperback
Alexander Short is a librarian. His job is in jeopardy and his marriage is coming apart. He meets a curious figure improbably named Henry James Jesson III, a book-lover who hires Alexander for some research in order to complete a cabinet of curiosities chronicling the life of the mysterious Henri Breguet, an eighteenth-century inventor. As his investigation progresses, Alexander understands that there a further secrets lurking in Jesson's cloistered world than those inside his elegant Manhattan town house.
An intellectual delight, this literary thriller will enchant you if you like books, antiques and watches. And Horace's sentence "Habent sua fata libelli" - All books have their fates - will stay on your mind forever!
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