Edward is a young, highly successful New York City investment banker about to embark on a new phase of his career in London. While on a two week vacation to get all of his affairs in order before moving to the other side of the pond, he is hired by one of his clients, a Duke and Duchess from England, for a little side work: organizing a private library and cataloging the books while keeping an eye out for one particular book that has been lost to history. While not his wheelhouse by any stretch of the imagination, Edward shows up for the first day expecting to pass the work on to someone else or quitting there on the spot, but Edward finds himself strangely engaged in the work and commits to continuing. To aide in his cataloguing, Edward enlists the help of a medievalist student from Columbia, Margaret. Together they attempt to unravel the mystery of this private collection and the lost book.
Some spoilers may follow, but I will try to keep things to a minimum.
My primary complaint with this book is that nothing happens in the end. The stakes are only slightly built up (more on that later) throughout the book for all of the urgency and importance that was established earlier to not matter in the end. In the end, Edward is literally left standing alone without the successful completion of the task of finding the lost book, his employer is furious and on the run because Edward failed (maybe?), and Edward’s first thought is, “Guess I’ll just start my job tomorrow.” There is nothing to be said about his emotional or mental state. Nothing is said about Margaret’s future as an academic. There is no indication of what is happening with the Duchess or the Duke. There is no real resolution other than “Things didn’t work out. Oh well.”
The Duke and Duchess are a whole ‘nother set of problems. They are these shadowy figures at loggerheads with each in the background who pull all these invisible strings to move things along in the story. It is never explain why they, a married couple, are dueling, so it’s hard to really care about either of them. They and their proxies show up randomly to talk up how terrible the other spouse is and how awful it would be for the other to get their hands on the lost book. There is a lot of talk about how high the stakes are, but the stakes are never explained.
BINGO – Red