Picks and Pans Review: Codex

UPDATED 04/12/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 04/12/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT

THRILLER

by Lev Grossman

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While it is certainly enjoyable and educational, TIME book critic Grossman's novel is also at times an exercise in frustration—both for its characters and its readers. Investment banker Edward Wozny is asked to do a job for the firm's enigmatic British clients, members of an outrageously wealthy family. The assignment? Cataloguing some old books with a secret and more important goal of finding a specific medieval manuscript, or codex, by one Gervase of Langford. At first offended by such a lowly chore, Edward is drawn into the work and recruits a chilly medieval expert named Margaret to help him track down the codex.

But he becomes distracted by an addictive, Myst-like computer game called MOMUS. The book hunt and the game begin to blend together.

Grossman does a good job with his cerebral plot, but as the mystery of the codex is revealed it becomes clear that he intends to leave several threads unwoven. That's a jolt of untidy realism that doesn't mix well with the dreamy quality of the rest of the book. The abrupt ending is all the more disappointing for the carefully crafted path that leads to it.

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