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The Grand Complication: A Novel [Hardcover]

Allen Kurzweil
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)

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Book by Kurzweil, Allen

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
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

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A Truly Fun "Time" April 4 2004
A beautiful pocket watch. A mad librarian. An antiquated old man. All of this adds up to a most delightful, enchanting read in Allen Kurzwell's "A Grand Complication".
Literally, I learned of this book yesterday in an e-mail I received from another source. Piquing my interest, I purchased a copy on a whim, and sat down to devour this deliciously juicy story. Part mystery, part literary banter, part biography, this book brings us reference librarian Alexander Short, who is short on his marriage, his job, and his obsessive note taking. Approached in the first chapter by Henry James Jesson III, who asks for his help in solving a personal mystery, Short becomes a Burt Ward to the older man's Bruce Wayne as they puzzle out the reason for an empty cupboard in a cabinet of wonders.
This story is brisk, engaging, and entertaining. Literally filled with literary puns and some literary references that I didn't understand, the story moves along in a very bright way. I was fascinated by Alexander Short. He's both brilliant and somewhat manic, and somehow really, truly understood him. Mid in the book, he gets a phrase stuck in his head that is stuck in mine as well, "Santo Domingo, Caracas, Miami, Divorce". Rich.
Rarely do I find a book that captures me so and refuses to be put down, but "A Grand Complication" does just that. By the time you hit the final page, you'll be sad that this rich tale is over.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Henry James Reborn... Unfortunately Feb. 16 2004
OK, the story line is original (I can't imagine anyone could have come up with it), but totally boring. Searching for a missing watch to complete a "case of curiosities" is hardly engaging material. Though, the interaction between the characters prevents this book from being a total snoozer.
Worst of all (for me), the writer's prose reads as if the book were written in the late 1800's, which would be great, if you find that sort of thing entertaining. I don't.
The story is a mystery, just not kind of mystery that I would have picked (the book was a gift) or preferred to read.
Bottom line, to the writer's credit, there is great potential as the character development is excellent, but they're caught in a weak story line.
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5.0 out of 5 stars As good as Umberto Ecco or Arturo Pérez-Reverte Nov. 25 2003
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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4.0 out of 5 stars creative intrigue July 27 2003
a book written with the full use of the english language. words pour out here in a very intriguing way and capture the audience very well. a well written novel using a protaganist that has been rarely used before
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4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and fun. March 1 2003
By A Customer
I did love this book. It was very different from most of the good modern fiction that I read (Poisonwood Bible, The Orchid Thief, Balzac and The Little Chinese Seamstress, etc.). Like one of the main characters, this book seemed to be from an earlier time. I was drawn into the scenes of the book, to the cozy firesides, the inner bowels of a great New York library, and I became not just a reader but a sleuth as well. After I read the book, I noticed that the back of the jacket had several reviews emphasizing that the book was erotic or lewd. I did not find this to be so at all, and there were no graphic scenes in the book. Instead, it more happily focused on the chase to solve the mystery and the fun along the way! I'm a voracious reader and still had to refer to my dictionary a few times, but then one character had a sort of Victorian upbringing and the other main character is very learned, so this was appropriate, and it doesn't hurt to learn a few new words now and then!
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3.0 out of 5 stars A Grand Disappointment Jan. 24 2003
By A Customer
A decent premise, marred by unsympathetic and not particularly interesting characters, mediocre writing, and a dead-end plot. Other than that, it was OK. Well, maybe somewhat pretentious as well. I was fatally mislead by the seemingly glowing blurbs on the back cover. What book were these reviewers reading?
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1.0 out of 5 stars Holy Fatal Cheapness! Jan. 3 2003
Alexander Short, the hero of this pretentious yarn, is a reference librarian who has written "Slips of Love", a book featuring the use of call slips used to endear himself to his future wife. Into his library steps Henry James Jesson III, a rich old eccentric with archaic mannerisms. He's got a glass cabinet stocked with the innovations of an 18th century inventor; the set is complete except for what turns out to be a missing watch reputedly made for Marie Antoinette.
Jesson invites Short to his posh Manhattan townhouse, which has more secret panels and hidden gadgetry than either Bruce Wayne's stately manor or the Bat Cave. In short order (get it? Short? Kurzweil will never let slip ... get it? Call slips? ... a stupid joke without the verbal equivalent of an elbow in your ribs). Anyway, the dynamic duo get to work trackng down the whereabouts of the the royal Rolex of its day.
Unfortunately, the "Grand Complication" is neither; it is cartoonish and facile. I slogged through the last 100 pages only to see if the ending was as bad as it was cracked up to be. In fact, it is worse. Much. If you have started the book already, just put it down and pick up something by Henry James or Dickens or George Eliot since it is apparently the Victorian author Kurzweil was straining to emulate. The result is a precious, unbelievably stilted style. Jesson, for example, says things like "My missteps would only poison the purity of your investigation." Poison the purity? Even bad Victorian writers wouldn't come up with that. And then there is "A faithful record of your efforts will be more than enough to animate my cloistered world.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars 3 1/2 stars. Intellectual story, eccentric characters
A suspense novel, this book is full of eccentrics and literary/historical curiosities. Alexander Short is a quirky reference librarian; Henry Jesson is an extremely eccentric,... Read more
Published on Dec 5 2002 by Fanoula Sevastos
3.0 out of 5 stars Good read overall
Alexander Short is the main character of this book and reminds you of that one strange friend of yours that just gets very caught up in the weirdest things. Read more
Published on Nov. 20 2002 by Melanie A. Burton
5.0 out of 5 stars A captivating book!
Allen Kurzweil has done it again! Quirky characters, grand inventions and, yes, grand complications. Read more
Published on Nov. 8 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars A grand, complicated, engrossing sprawl of a story
This is a book-lover's book. It's for people who read obsessively, who buy up 10-cent paperbacks at flea markets, who haunt library discard sales, who can't venture inside a... Read more
Published on Oct. 11 2002 by erica
5.0 out of 5 stars A grand novel
This is one of my favority books this year. It is a well-crafted book, the writing is superb, and it is fun to read. I learned a lot about worlds I knew nothing about. Read more
Published on Sept. 24 2002
2.0 out of 5 stars Gimmicky and sophomoric.
Like so many other readers, I really wanted to like this book. Before even cracking the pages, I was enamored with the concept of a mystery involving the arcane worlds of... Read more
Published on Sept. 14 2002 by KateMc
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