The Dog Who Came In From The Cold (Corduroy Mansions) by Alexander McCall Smith

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The Dog Who Came In From The Cold (Corduroy Mansions) by Alexander McCall Smith

Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: Settle down for a feel-good read with a cast of characters that come fully to life on each page. Delightfully easy reading, but thankfully not at all dull or dumbed down.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: May 2010
Publisher: Polygon
ISBN: 978-1846971617

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Ah, bliss! To sit down once more to an Alexander McCall Smith story and wish only for someone thoughtful to come and serve me tea and biscuits whilst I read! We are back, once again, with the residents of Corduroy Mansions to earwig on their conversations, their private thoughts and, of course, to catch up with what every one's favourite dog, Freddie de la Hay, has been getting up to. Written once again in serial format for The Daily Telegraph each short chapter is a gem, and all the characters we met previously in Corduroy Mansions are back again to entertain us.

I do like the ridiculous things in the story, such as the author Greatorex who is writing a biography of a yeti, or the whole spy story for Freddie de la Hay who in this book is enlisted by MI6 to do some undercover spy work. It's as if AMS has said yes, I know this is silly, but it's fun, isn't it? So that even though I know it's just a story I find myself believing completely that there is a yeti wandering around Fortnum & Mason's, and that William's dog has actually been chosen to spy on some Russians purely because the gang leader loves Pimlico Terriers and MI6 have, of course, been keeping a watch on William and his dog in readiness for such a situation arising. Perhaps it's because so much else within the book is believable, or at least not entirely out of the realms of possibility, that as a reader you just accept what you're being told is happening is true. Anyway, these stories make me laugh, and I like to wind down of an evening by reading something that isn't miserable or violent or trying desperately to win a literary award with fanciful, stylistic writing.

I think one of the things I like most about AMS' writing are the little thoughts he pops into my head via the ramblings, internal or otherwise, of his characters. There are visual images, such as those who constantly have chewing gum in their mouths looking like cows chewing the cud, or ideas about happiness and misery and whether there is anything shameful in expressing to people that you are happy. There's a lovely part about how sometimes going home can help you sort things out in your head, and that everything that might make you feel rebellious towards your parents, all that familiarity which can annoy you is, actually, everything that you need to find your balance again.

So, along with the spies and yetis, Rupert continues his intense coveting of his business partner, Barbara's flat, whilst Barbara herself is taken up to Scotland by Hugh and finds that she is utterly bewitched by the beauty of his homeland. Dee has business plans and is looking for investors, Caroline tries out a real relationship with James and Berthea is kept busy saving her brother Terence once again, this time enlisting the local mechanic to dress up as the Green Man. Each chapter is so short you wonder sometimes how you feel like you end up knowing all of these many characters so very well. It's a testament to his skill as a writer, really, that such a large cast of characters can suspend themselves in your mind and live there, unconfused, for the duration of the story.

I took off half a star from my review after swaying for and against for a while, because at the very start of the book William is mulling over some thoughts that lead him to ponder certain Latin expressions and phrases. Now, he does go on to say that the overwhelming majority of people have no Latin and don't feel the lack of it, but I still felt a bit jangled by the Latin snippets and parsing of verbs, if only because I felt I might be missing out on a joke! It's tricky because I usually like the fact that certain bits of knowledge are assumed by AMS (even if I have to go and look things up occasionally!) but in this instance, right at the very start of the book, it unsettled me when I was ready to just fall into the story with ease. Anyway, I mention it here because if you pick this up in a bookshop and see the Latin and think 'oh no, I don't want this sort of book' then don't let yourself be put off as it's just a page or two and the rest of the book more than makes up for it. There are still story lines left unfinished, so hopefully the residents of Corduroy Mansions will be back again very soon for another outing.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

The first outing for these characters can be found here. If you enjoy this you might also like to try the 44 Scotland Street serialisation.

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Buy The Dog Who Came In From The Cold (Corduroy Mansions) by Alexander McCall Smith at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Dog Who Came In From The Cold (Corduroy Mansions) by Alexander McCall Smith at


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