Some of my readers will remember that a while ago I enthused about The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. In the last 3 years I think it was one of a very few books that all the ladies of my book club agreed was thoroughly engrossing and entertaining. Normally, there’s at least one or two ladies that don’t like a book but the The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, alongside The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon and The Snowing and Greening of Thomas Passmore by Paul Burman has been one of the few that came out with a unanimous show of hands.
So let me tell you about Corduroy Mansions; The Dog Who Came In From The Cold, also by Alistair McCall Smith. Currently, the book is available FREE via The Daily Telegraph, either by reading it online or listening to it as a podcast entertainingly read by Andrew Sachs. (Many of you will remember Andrew as the unfortunate but endearing waiter in Fawlty Towers.)
And it is just grrrreat! Yes, I’m up to chapter 63 and I love it! In fact, I even prefer it to The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. I guess that’s because The Dog Who Came In From The Cold has more points of reference for me as it's set in Britain and involves a number of the most ridiculously stereotyped quirky British characters you could ever hope to meet. Yet, at the same time, it's full of wickedly clever observations and perceptions of British society at both its worst and best. As the novel has progressed I find I’m laughing more and more…and the star of the show is Freddie de la Hay – a dog recruited into MI6!
Yes, it’s a silly idea and yes it’s a stupid name for a dog; even his owner is embarrassed to admit that he called it such a daft name …but then it’s just another astute observation by McCall about how we Brits love our animals. By gum, we spend more on our vet's bills than we do on our teeth – it’s truly shocking! And look at me - I called my cat after James Bond! I’m afraid everything you’ve ever thought about us Brits being total fruitcakes will be confirmed by this novel … but what the heck you’ll love it as much as I do!
And I can’t not mention the daft parody of the title The Dog Who Came In From The Cold with John Le Carré's The Spy Who Came From In The Cold. Yes, Freddie de la Hay takes on a Russian Spy ring just like George Smiley but the good news is the plot is a hell of a lot simpler than any Le Carré novel I’ve ever read! Yep, if any of you folks out there understand the plot of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy please do let me know. In the meantime, I’m gonna stick with Freddie, a Pimlico terrier who, believe it or not, actually lives in Pimlico!
Okay, finally, I should say there are some serious issues underneath all the mirth in The Dog Who Came In From the Cold about friendships, loneliness and most importantly love – and how we all need it. However, I won’t dwell on these because you know you just need to read this book yourself. It's perfect; full of fun and laughter, friendships and folly and ultimately what we say in Britain just “A cracking good read.”
And, if for some reason you can’t get to read it over at The Daily Telegraph you’ll be able to buy The Dog Who Came In From The Cold in 2010.