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Search tags: Alexander-McCall-Smith
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text 2019-04-14 17:47
Reading progress update: I've read 3 out of 316 pages.
The Female Detective - Andrew Forrester,Alexander McCall Smith,Mike Ashley

I am aware that the female detective may be regarded with even more aversion than her brother in profession. But still it cannot be disproved that if there is a demand for men detectives there must also be one for female detective police spies. Criminals are both masculine and feminine—indeed, my experience tells me that when a woman becomes a criminal she is far worse than the average of her male companions, and therefore it follows that the necessary detectives should be of both sexes.

1864, people!


And, yet, the writing doesn't read as stilted as I might have expected, either. I think I'm really going to like this. 

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review 2019-04-08 18:29
The Department of Sensitive Crimes
The Department of Sensitive Crimes (Detective Varg #1) - Alexander McCall Smith

[I received a copy of this book through Penguin’s “First To Read” program, in exchange for an honest review.]

I thought this would be the introduction to a series with investigations a little on the strange side, and quirky characters. The cases indeed had a bit of oddity (a man knifed at the back of the knee, a boyfriend who may or may not exist…), but I didn’t enjoy the characters and their interactions much.

I think the breaking point for me (well, not really a point, since it kept going on throughout the whole novel…) was the way their thoughts and conversations were meandering. In a way, they surely did mirror how our thoughts in general go from A to E through convoluted paths and associations of ideas; the problem is that this doesn’t translate very well into written form, unless perhaps you’re called James Joyce, and even then, I wouldn’t bet on it systematically. As a result, the characters took their sweet time getting to the fact, and to be honest, I found that their reflections about their own lives intruded all in the wrong places, such as between two paragraphs pertaining the investigation. The amount of useless dialogue lines kept breaking the flow of the story, and didn’t endear me to said characters.

Another problem was the nature of some of those conversations, taking gratuitous jabs at people: reflections about the size of a policewoman’s buttocks (such a professional conversation, that), or calling a secondary character a midget, or being not even vaguely sexist—even coming from the female investigator, Anna, when she addresses the matter of the young woman in the second “crime”, and declares “Hormones come into it” (to which Varg agrees with a heartfelt “Don’t they always?”). I mean… No? Just no? Was this really necessary? What was it meant to achieve?

All in all, I was disappointed here. I was expecting a sort of quirky, adorkable atmosphere, but it felt at best bland, and at worst somewhat rancid.

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review 2019-02-02 04:45
The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon
The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon - Alexander McCall Smith

DNF at page 100. I got bored and started skimming ahead, which I usually avoid, but in this case it saved me a few wasted hours of reading. I thought after the last book that maybe McCall Smith was running out of ideas, but it turns out he was keeping at least one up his sleeve, and it’s one of my least favorite things to come across in a book (or anywhere, for that matter).


Incest. Totally unnecessary, why-would-you-go-there incest.

(spoiler show)




I’m done. So long, No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, and thanks for all the warm fuzzies you gave me in the past.

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review 2019-01-30 11:28
The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection
The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, #13) - Alexander McCall Smith

This is one of those “bubble bath for the brain” series that I used to love turning to after heavy reads. I lost track of it for years and now I’m several books behind. I’m both pleased and dismayed that McCall Smith is still cranking one of these out every year; pleased because I enjoy my brain bubble baths, dismayed because this book feels a bit like MS is out of ideas and is just ticking established character traits off a checklist.


Mma Ramotswe drinks red bush tea and drives her tiny white van and repeatedly declares herself “traditionally built”: check.


Mma Makutsi adjusts her round glasses, covets higher status in the agency, and has conversations with her shoes: check.


Motholeli and Puso briefly make an appearance and do cute well-adjusted children stuff: check.


Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni relates current events/people to cars: check.


Charlie and Fanwell say or do something foolish: double check.


Mma Potokwani bosses people around and serves fruit cake: check.


Violet Sephotho is vain and somehow the villain: check.


I could keep going, but I’m sure you get the idea. Added to the increasing feeling of same-old, same-old is a growing suspicion that the author is now on auto-pilot, and that’s why all these characters are sort of stagnating and we’re getting awkward pull-me-out-of-the-story things like a white man from Muncie, Indiana speaking with the exact same syntax as the residents of Gaborone. I’m hoping this is just me or the author having an off-book, so to speak, and not a sign that the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency should have shut its doors on a higher note back in book 12.


I enjoyed my little visit to McCall Smith’s version of Botswana, but not nearly as much as I used to.  Here’s hoping the magic is back in the next book.

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review 2019-01-28 18:41
No wonder Barbara Pym appreciated Austen
Excellent Women - Barbara Pym,Alexander McCall Smith
Excellent Women - Barbara Pym,Gerry Halligan,Jonathan Keeble,Alexander McCall Smith

The same kind of seemingly unassuming writing, combining gentility (and apparent gentleness) with acute, razorsharp, detached observation of both society and its individual constituents, and a very subtle sense of humour.  Pym, like Austen, is far from being a revolutionary, but she notes the state of the world in which she lives and comments on it with wry humour and the self-deprecation only possessed by those who are truly beyond the need of advertising themselves.  And, of course, like all great writing (Austen's included), Pym's feels relevant and -- to use a word much bandied about in connection with this particular buddy read -- "relatable" long after first having been published, in a world that (at first blush) seems to have undergone quite a number of drastic turns since.


Like Austen's, Pym's writing abounds with memorable quotes -- in lieu of pausing every other minute to post yet another one while I was reading / listening to the book, let me just share this:

"'You could consider marrying an excellent woman?' I asked in amazement. 'But they are not for marrying.'


'You're surely not suggesting that they are for the other things?' he said, smiling.


That had certainly not occurred to me and I was annoyed to find myself embarrassed.


'They are for being unmarried,' I said, 'and by that I mean a positive rather than a negative state.'"

Preach it, Mildred -- and Barbara, of course.

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