All reviews copyright 1984-2018 Evelyn C. Leeper.
44 SCOTLAND STREET by Alexander McCall Smith:
[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 03/27/2009]
44 SCOTLAND STREET by Andrew McCall Smith (ISBN-13 978-1-400-07944-5, ISBN-10 1-400-07944-5) is the first book in another series by the author of the "Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency" books. This one is set in the art world of Edinburgh, and I did not find it anywhere nearly as enjoyable, but that is probably because I thought none of the characters were really interesting in the same way that the characters in the "Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency" books were. The only interesting characters were Bertie and his pushy mother. What was intriguing was McCall Smith's discussion of what it was like to write a serial novel, which this was.
First, McCall Smith did not write the entire novel ahead of time, so although he started with several chapters written, he fell behind in his writing, and found himself up against a perpetual deadline. And he also discovered something perhaps less commonly thought of: he could not go back and make any changes in earlier chapters. So if he decides while writing chapter 15 that it would have worked better if the painting at the beginning was a still life rather than a seascape, that too bad--he's stuck with the seascape.
To order 44 Scotland Street from amazon.com, click here.
HEAVENLY DATE AND OTHER FLIRTATIONS by Alexander McCall Smith:
[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 09/02/2011]
HEAVENLY DATE AND OTHER FLIRTATIONS by Alexander McCall Smith (ISBN 978-0-965-90442-1) is a collection of short stories about dating from the author of the "Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency" and "44 Scotland Street" series. These are quite unlike those, being more serious attempts at straightforward (one might almost say literary) fiction. They're okay, but Alexander McCall Smith will, I believe, suffer the same fate as another "three-name" writer, Arthur Conan Doyle. Conan Doyle tried to distance himself from his Sherlock Holmes stories and thought he would be remembered for his historical novels. He was wrong. I don't know if that is what McCall Smith is trying to do, but clearly his legacy will be his series.
To order Heavenly Date and Other Flirtations from amazon.com, click here.
THE HOUSE OF UNEXPECTED SISTERS by Alexander McCall Smith:
[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 02/09/2018]
THE HOUSE OF UNEXPECTED SISTERS by Alexander McCall Smith (ISBN 978-1-101-87137-9) is the 18th book in the "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" ("N1LDA") series. While it is okay, the series is definitely getting weaker and more repetitive. P> For example, McCall Smith writes, "Anybody in any employment in Botswana was expected to engage somebody to help in the house. There was nothing extravagant about this; it was, in fact, a form of sharing: if you had a job, you had money, and money needed to be spread around. The people who helped in the house were often paid a pittance and expected to work long hours, but they were desperate for any job and were pleased to take on what came their way." But McCall Smith is quick to add that Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi do not take advantage of people this way, and always pay them a decent wage and treat them well. P> This is a reasonable philosophy, but McCall Smith wrote about it back in book two or three of the "N1LDA" series. In short, he is starting to repeat himself even more than with his long descriptions of the landscape, Mma Ramotswe's reminiscences of her father, Mma Makutsi's 97%, and Violet Sephotho. Really, I am so sick of Violet Sephotho always being the villain. In the first few books in the "N1LDA" series, Mma Ramotswe solved important mysteries, even crimes. Now, she is reduced to figuring out why someone fired a sales clerk, and resolving some personal issues of her own. P> It's true that Agatha Christie was very repetitive in her works, and even Conan Doyle used a lot of the same ideas in "The Adventure of the Naval Treaty", "The Adventure of the Second Stain", and "The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet". But somehow I am finding it less appealing in the "N1LDA" series.
To order The House of Unexpected Sisters from amazon.com, click here.
THE NO. 1 LADIES' DETECTIVE AGENCY by Alexander McCall Smith:
THE KALAHARI TYPING SCHOOL FOR MEN by Alexander McCall Smith:
[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 10/19/2012]
In the first sentence of THE KALAHARI TYPING SCHOOL FOR MEN by Alexander McCall Smith (ISBN 978-0-375-42217-1), Mma Ramotswe is "looking up at the high sky of Botswana, so empty that the blue is almost white." This reminded me of another curiosity about colors. Apparently a linguist had heard that blue was the last primary color to be distinguished in any language, so he decided to try an experiment when his daughter was born. He and his wife agreed to teach her all the colors except blue. After she had learned red, yellow, white, and so on, he waited for a clear day, then asked her what color the sky was. She looked at it for a few seconds and then said that it was white. (After this, she then learned blue very quickly, by the way.)
To order The Kalahari Typing School for Men from amazon.com, click here.
THE NO. 1 LADIES' DETECTIVE AGENCY by Alexander McCall Smith:
[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 04/29/2005]
Our book discussion chose Alexander McCall Smith's THE NO. 1 LADIES' DETECTIVE AGENCY (ISBN 1-4000-3477-9) for this month. It was a nice, amiable book, interesting more for the setting (Botswana) and characters than for any amazing detective work. It was popular enough that people expressed an interest in reading the next book for a future discussion. McCall Smith has also written a series of novellas about "Professor Dr. Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld", a professor of Romance Philology. (These are published as individual books: PORTUGUESE IRREGULAR VERBS, THE FINER POINTS OF SAUSAGE DOGS, and AT THE VILLA OF REDUCED CIRCUMSTANCES.) They are more in the tradition of screwball comedies, with such plots as von Iglefeld being confused with a professor of veterinary medicine, Professor von Igelfold, and invited to give a talk on daschunds in Arkansas, or being asked to transport stolen relics with predictably disastrous results. I read the first two--they're fast reads, but I'd recommend sticking with his "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series.
To order The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency from amazon.com, click here.
THE SATURDAY BIG TENT WEDDING PARTY by Alexander McCall Smith:
[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 08/19/2011]
THE SATURDAY BIG TENT WEDDING PARTY by Alexander McCall Smith (ISBN 978-0-307-37839-2) is the twelfth book in the "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" series. McCall Smith has moved away from mysteries and detection, and into more philosophizing (and preaching). All the crises work out conveniently (although the election results seem left for the next book). As many others have noted, the children that Mma Ramotswe and Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni had adopted seem to have disappeared, to the extent that they never have any effect on Mma Ramotswe's schedule. I wish McCall Smith would return to the detection aspect that began this series.
To order The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party from amazon.com, click here.
TEA TIME FOR THE TRADITIONALLY BUILT by Alexander McCall Smith:
[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 08/28/2009]
As with most series, the "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series is starting to run down. The tenth (and latest) is TEA TIME FOR THE TRADITIONALLY BUILT by Alexander McCall Smith (ISBN-13 978-0-375-42449-6, ISBN-10 0-375-42449-X) and shows signs of being produced more because it is expected than out of the inspiration of a story. There are more--and more flagrant--red herrings than in the earlier books, as if it needed padding out. And the editing has gotten sloppy (assuming it has not been dropped altogether). For example, on page 20, Mma Ramotswe's appointment with Mr. Molofololo is at eleven o'clock; on page 29 it is at ten o'clock. (And why are some men "Mr." and some men "Ra"?) And who is writing the blurbs? "Irrepressible" is not an adjective I would apply to Mma Ramotswe--it is far too frivolous for her. On the plus side, McCall Smith does finally give the younger apprentice a name. But the thinness of the plot makes me think it may be time for McCall Smith to put this series on hiatus, at least until he has a stronger basis for a book.
(By the way, on page 48 it is "Mafeking" and on page 52 it is "Mafikeng", but this is not a typo--the first (on a tea tin) was the old British spelling, the second is the current South African spelling.
To order Tea Time for the Traditionally Built from amazon.com, click here.
THE WOMAN WHO WALKED IN SUNSHINE by Alexander McCall Smith:
[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 02/19/2016]
THE WOMAN WHO WALKED IN SUNSHINE by Alexander McCall Smith (ISBN 978-0-307-91156-8) is number sixteen in the "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series and it is pretty much more of the same. We do get to see that Mma Makutsi has matured, but that is about the only change. And I am getting tired of Violet Sephotho being dragged in as the evil villain in every book. Even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle mentioned Moriarty in only seven stories, and he was an active character in only two ("The Final Problem" and THE VALLEY OF FEAR).
To order The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine from amazon.com, click here.