Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Forgotten Room (2015) novel

Original Novel Title: The Forgotten Room
Author: Lincoln Child
Publisher: Doubleday, 2015.

Lincoln Child, who also has collaborated on a series of well-received novels with Douglas Preston, sets his sixth solo novel in the rareified world of a Rhode Island think tank known as Lux. The forgotten room of the title references a hidden room within the huge mansion that houses Lux, the former home of the eccentric and wealthy Edward Delaveaux whose wife's ghost was said to still haunt a hallway of Lux.

The forgotten room contains a secret which one Lux researcher has already paid for with his life in a grisly suicide. Jeremy Logan, a Yale University professor who moonlights as an enigmalogist by solving unexplainable mysteries such as the Loch Ness monster or ghosts, is hired by Lux's director to investigate this out-of-character suicide. In doing so, Logan places his own life in jeopardy.

Early on during his investigation on behalf of Lux's director, he visits the institute's archives, located as archives usually are, in the mansion's basement. The think tank does not provide him with maps or signage nor did it occur to him to ask, so he has to find the archives on his own, where he eventually
"arrived at an open door with a sign that read ARCHIVES. Beyond the door, the walls and ceiling fell away, revealing a most impressive space bathed in bright yet pleasingly mellow light. Row after row of filing cabinets ran from front to back in achingly regular lines, but they were spaced far enough apart to forestall any sense of oppressiveness. At the far end, Logan could just make out another, smaller door, with what looked like a security station beside it. He stepped inside. ...

"Just inside the door, an elderly woman was seated at an official-looking table. A nameplate on one side of the desk read J. RAMANUJAN. She ran her eyes up and down Logan, lips pursing with an expression he could not decide was appraising or disapproving." (p. 78-79)

He's initially denied access because he has only a temporary ID card. He quickly overturns the archivist's decision with a letter the director provided him entitling him to unrestricted access. Not knowing exactly what he's looking for other than files pertaining to the 1930s, the archivist provides him with "blank document requisition forms." (p. 79)

After some discussion over the nature of his archival research and request to look for documents himself in the stacks, the archivist reluctantly agrees with the caveat that he "take no more than five folders from the stacks at a time. And please be careful when you refile them." (p. 80)

He spends a total of three hours at this research, "scribbling his observations into a small notebook with a gold pen," and realizes in the end that the files do not contain any records more recent than 2000 even though he was only interested in files from the 1930s. (p. 81)

The archivist informs him that more recent records are either with the scientists themselves or "'in archive two, beyond that door.' And she pointed toward the far end of the room." Archive two turns out to be off-limits to Logan even with his special letter of access. Seems he required "a level-A access or greater" according to the security guard who's armed with a nightstick and a can of Mace. "Then he [Logan] nodded, turned, and made his way back through the stacks and into the basement corridor beyond." (p. 81-82)

So the main archive stacks have no security other the guard who's at one end and who's purpose is guard against intruders to archive two. Filing cabinets for storage are so 1970s. Any archives worth its upkeep would more than likely not permit the use of pens to take notes. At least the part about the archives being relegated to a basement seems to accord with the location of many archival facilities with which I'm familiar.

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