Top critical review
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A pleasant surprise
on 25 April 2007
When this book came into my hands, I have to admit I didn't think I was going to like it. Given that my only knowledge of the author had to do with a series of novels revolving around an African detective agency for women (or thereabouts)- I guess I was expecting a flight of fancy through Edinburgh, with no real meat to it.
I couln't have been more wrong. This book is a wittily observed journey through the lives and thoughts of five or six of the best realised characters I've come across in modern fiction.
The narcissistic Bruce, fantastically pretentious Irene and perpetually befuddled Matthew are among my favourites, but I think there's definitely someone for everyone in this book.
I can foresee a potential negative for some people coming to this book expecting a great saga. Because of the way in which it was written (Smith submitted a chapter a day to The Scotsman newspaper for 110 days), the story flits around and just as a particular line gets some legs, you find yourself focused on something totally different.
For those who like books with a long, developed plot line and deeply winding subplots, this book may feel like dealing with a hyperactive child. However, if you like dry, well realised humour with a good pace and excellent characters, then this will make a great read.
I'm certainly interested enough to hunt down the two sequels. Well done, Mr Smith, you've converted another fan.