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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, but a confusing number of characters, 23 May 2010
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This review is from: The Dog Who Came In From The Cold (Corduroy Mansions) (Hardcover)
I have enjoyed McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street series of books that were the precursor to the Corduroy Mansions (Corduroy Mansions 1) series of which The Dog Who Came in from the Cold is a sequel. Both series bear the stamp of being published in short chapters day by day in a newspaper, respectively The Scotsman and The Daily Telegraph. Maybe because I grew up in and know Edinburgh very well I prefer the Scotland Street books as they have a much greater sense of place: the city is part of the narrative, whereas, Pimlico doesn't really make an impression and its geography doesn't play an important part in the Corduroy Mansion's books. The author, McCall Smith, has lived and worked in Edinburgh for many years and I think it shows in the creation of a realistic background to his characters as they move around the city. I found the first book in the Corduroy Mansions series easier to get into than this second one: The Dog Who Came in from the Cold has too many characters and I kept forgetting who was whom. It did help to have read the two books in chronological order as most of the characters of the first book appear in the second, but with many more in the latter to add to my confusion. I would also say that this second book is more surreal than the first with the dog (Freddie de la Hay) of the title being recruited to work undercover for MI6 (hence the allusion in the title to the John Le Carre book, The Spy who came in from the Cold) to suss out the criminal activities of a Russian gang operating in London.

Some of the familiar characters are there from the first book, for example, William French, failed Master of Wine, father of layabout, Eddie, and owner of Freddie his dog been suborned for MI6 by agent Tilly Curtain; Barbara Ragg, publisher, and her new-found love, Hugo Macpherson; she having broken up her relationship with the odious MP Oedipus Snark. Barbera is still hoping to get the manuscript of the autobiography of a yeti, collected by the writer Errol Greatorex. I think you get the picture from the names that this is a very tongue-in-cheek book with some over-the-top characters and plot lines. More so than his other books I've read which are more realistic in depicting life, albeit a comfortable, middle-class, professional life devoid of harsh realities and none the worse for that.

McCall Smith is a skillful writer who carries one along in his up-market soap operas into which he cleverly injects though-provoking philosophical ideas and a commentary on modern life.
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