Why can I never remember that Amazon.com is not actually my friend? When it recommends a title like Andrew Taylor’s Caroline Minuscule— just because I’ve bought some of Taylor’s previous books — I need to remind myself that this is an algorithm speaking, not a human being. And that even if the premise seems alluring (ye olde graduate student-dragged-into-crime caper novel), the execution may not thrill. Most important, I should remember the rough wisdom of the marketplace. If an early work by a successful novelist goes out of print, it often deserves that fate. And its resurrection by a specialty press does not necessarily mean that it’s an overlooked treat. I did read to the end; but then, it’s short.
Plot? Oh, okay. William Dougal, a graduate student in paleology , discovers the murdered body of his advisor. Shortly thereafter he meets a sinister figure who hires him to, um, tidy up a few loose ends involving a medieval document copied in a form of script known as “Caroline Minuscule.” (I do love the unexpected “-u-” in the middle of that word. It may be the entire reason I read the book.) Events unspool from there, Dougal discovers unsuspected, unacademic talents, his decorative girlfriend Amanda lingers on the edges of the tale. There are guns, diamonds, a yacht moored in a Fenland estuary, blah blah. Apparently Andrew Taylor wrote quite a few more of these Dougal novels. Productive fellow.