Thursday, August 11, 2011
The Dog Who Came In From the Cold
The Dog Who Came In From the Cold / Alexander McCall Smith
Toronto: Knopf, c2011.
I'm a big fan of light reading while on holiday. Actually, I'm a big fan of light reading a lot of the time, especially between long, serious books. Light reading that is charming, amusing and ultimately life-affirming is especially good. And I know that when I get my hands on a new Alexander McCall Smith that that is exactly what I'm going to get.
This is the second in his "Corduroy Mansions" series, and I've been awaiting a copy for a long time. (not only because this series was serialized in the Telegraph, and during the initial volume's writing, a link to a review on my blog was on their sidebar for WEEKS and was an amazing experience) It's been out in the UK for a while, and we Canadians have had to wait our turn.
But the wait is worth it! This gives us the continuing adventures of all the characters we meet in the first Corduroy Mansions novel, of which some of my favourites include the Pimlico Terrier, Freddie de la Hay, who in this installment has been recruited by MI6 to infiltrate a Russian spy ring. Chaos ensues (of course) but Freddie's human companion William gets his moment in the sun as a hero.
We also continue with the trials and tribulations of Berthea Snark and her odious son, MP Oedipus Snark, as well as her flaky brother Terence Moongrove. Literary agent Barbara Ragg continues with her editing of a book by a Himalayan Yeti (who is spotted around town); Caroline and James continue with their cautious friendship/relationship (neither is sure which it is).
McCall Smith has a sure touch for the foibles of people who are simply living their lives and who get into minor scrapes frequently. The interactions, motivations and interior dialogues of his characters are fascinating, charming and illuminating. And often very funny. His mild yet twisted sense of the absurd always makes for a fun read -- perhaps because I share that appreciation for the ridiculous. However, even with all the poking-fun McCall Smith is never mean. I do like that; we can find the behaviour of people amusing but also give them the dignity of a human being at the same time.
A predictably enjoyable read, McCall Smith captures London in this series and involves us in the lives of a whole new set of characters. Although I don't love these characters the way I love Bertie and company from Scotland Street, Edinburgh, this series is still fun and light and full of great moments. Well worth reading-- if you've been avoiding this author because of his vast popularity, do yourself a favour and give him a try anyhow.