The Geographer's Library -- Jon Fasman
I thought you would be dead by now. Certainly I never expected to hear from you again. And maybe I haven't: the handwriting looks familiar, but forgery would probably be among the mildest of your new friends' skills. But I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. Unwarranted assumption seems a fitting way to pay you tribute.
Enclosed you'll find what you asked for: "A full and objective account of our time together." You told me it wasn't for you alone, but even if it were, I doubt I could've written in differently: you couldn't have been "you" here, even if I had wanted you to be. And however much I wanted to keep silent and ignore your request, I found I couldn't. Anyway, I wasn't doing much else. I've been holed up here for longer than I knew you, and however shaken I remain (and will, at least for a little while longer), your face is already growing indistinct, and for that I'm grateful.
I worry about you, though. I wish you a longer and happier life than I fear you'll have.
1154: Sicilian geographer/alchemist al-Idrisi leaves King Roger II's court to map the known world, never to return. Shortly after his departure, a thief enters his home and steals fifteen artifacts. Over the years, the artifacts are scattered throughout the world.
Present day: Paul Tomm, 23-year-old journalist for the Lincoln Carrier, is assigned the obituary of a little-known local professor of Baltic history. What begins as a routine investigation for a few inches of print quickly expands into the discovery of conspiracy, thievery, mysticism and murder.
Fantastic. I really liked the characters--the secondary ones more than Paul (he was kind of the "everyman" type)--it was well written, funny and smart. The book is written in rotating chapters: present day/Paul's investigation; past/history of an artifact; description of the artifact; present day/Paul's investigation; etc.
You bounce around the globe and in time constantly. Although the artifact history chapters are set in many different times and places, Paul's chapters are a constant--they keep the book grounded. There are actually other constants, too, but I don't want to give anything away. (It took me about three-quarters of the way through before I realized where the book was going). You have to pay attention. But it's worth it.