Thursday, 19 May 2011

A Conspiracy of Friends


This is happily the third installment in Alexander McCall Smith's charming online serial novel, Corduroy Mansions, that is published around September each year in the Telegraph.  McCall Smith already had a very successful serial going in The Scotsman which centred around a handful of Edinburgh inhabitants and he has replicated the formula and set it in Pimlico, London - where, happily, anyone with Internet access can enjoy his daily chapters online.

I must admit that I was not as in love with the inhabitants of Corduroy Mansions as I was with those of 44 Scotland Street but that changed after reading the second book, The Dog Who Came in from the Cold.  The more time you spend in their company, the more invested you become and I look forward to following their everyday - and in some cases extraordinary - lives as I would with old friends.

A Conspiracy of Friends reintroduces us to the Corduroy Mansions inhabitants and the people in their world: William French, Master of Wine (Failed) and his (formerly vegetarian and MI-6 agent) Pimlico terrier Freddie de la Hay; the only unpleasant Lib-Dem, Oedipus Snark; Barbara Ragg (of the Ragg Porter Publishing Agency - publishers of the Yeti's Biography); Berthea Snark (psychotherapist and reluctant mother of Oedipus) and her New-Age, Porsche-driving brother Terence Moongrove...  to mention a few.

This book is filled with McCall Smith's light and sympathetic touch with dashes of humour and human observation.  I found it engaging and fun, especially since a large dose of interesting new situations are foisted upon our group of friends.  Perfect pick-me-up or calm-me-down reading.

Thank you to Birlinn/Polygon for kindly providing a review copy.

10 comments:

Audrey said...

I love A.M.S. I started to listen to/read this in real time, then I got so many episodes behind that I decided to wait, as I had completely missed the second book. But yay! I just got a notice that The Dog That...is waiting for me at the library.

I'm not sure where we left off with Bertie etc. in the U.S... I think the last book(s) weren't or haven't yet been published here.

Claire (The Captive Reader) said...

Like you, I hadn't felt the same immediate affection for Corduroy Mansions residents as I did for the Scotland Street set after the first book but they have definitely grown on me. The daily installments of A Conspiracy of Friends last fall were always something to look forward to at the start of my day. I can't wait for the next series/novel to start!

Col (Col Reads) said...

I love Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, but I haven't read his other series. This looks like a nice series to start in the summer!

galant said...

Is it me, I wonder? This is the third series of his books I've tried and I just don't get on with his style of writing and characters and yet I know he's held in such high regard with a great following (but then a lot of people like junk food, which doesn't mean it's good for you!) So what should I do - try the Scotland Street books or simply give up on McCall Smith?
Margaret P

Cristina (Rochester Reader) said...

Audrey: How nice that you have an AMS waiting for you! The last Bertie was published in the UK last year and is called 'The Importnace of Being Seven'. There is another due out in the UK in July/August called 'Bertie Plays the Blues', which is book 7. I have yet to read book 6 as I have been saving it as a treat :-)

Claire: I think it's very good of The Telegraph to make it available online for free. I wish The Scotsman could do the same...

Col: Hi Col and thank you for visiting my blog :-) I think this series is excellent Summer reading... or even Winter reading :-) I hope you enjoy it! I have yet to read No. 1 Ladies' but have the last two books patiently waiting for me. As I saw the excellent TV series, I think I might want to start later in the series (unusual for me).

Galant: Hello and welcome to my blog :-) I know a few people who find AMS' style a but twee. Perhaps try again when you're in the mood for something light and positive? Have you tried 44 Scotland Street (which is in the same vein as Corduroy Mansions) or The Sunday Philosophy Club? There's also the absurd adventures of Professor von Igelfeld with book one being Portuguese Irregular Verbs. If you can get an audio version, read by the wonderful Hugh Laurie, I think it might do the trick. Good luck... sometimes we have to be in the right mood for a certain book but sometimes we just don't click. I hope you manage to find an AMS you like :-)

Darlene said...

Such an eye-catching cover!

lyn said...

I should have my hands on Conspiracy of Friends this week & I'm looking forward to reading it. I love the Scotland St people more but I've grown fond of some of the Pimlico crowd.

galant said...

I might well try again one day ... I have The Sunday Philosophy Club and started that, but didn't get far. I do like light reading, I adore E F Benson's Mapp & Lucia but I can't stand M C Beaton's Agatha Raisin, but there's no rhyme nor reason to what appeals, is there?
Margaret P

Sarah Ashford said...

Hi Christine
I am looking forward to reading this one, and I have just started The Charming Quirks of Others, which I will be taking on holiday with me. He has so many books and series, and I have read so many, but sometimes I get confused with which ones I have read and which ones I haven't! I am also excited to report that I am going to the Hay Festival and to a talk with AMS at the beginning of June, which I am looking forward to and I shall let you know what he says.
My advice to those new to ASM would be to start with the Detective Agency Series, and then Scotland Street, as these, in my opinion are his best series. If you like the style of these, then perhaps try his others. I can see why his style might not appeal to everyone, but personally I think his books are hilarious and really focus on the nuiances of human relationships and behaviour. (ie. Bruce and his hair gel!)
Speak soon. Sarah A

Luvvie said...

Your blog is so very beautiful. I have enjoyed AMS books but never got into the ones outside of the Detective series - which is odd because I love Edinburgh AND Pimlico.

I just love the cover art on his books - such simple strong lines....deeply satisfying.

I fear I may have dropped off the Persephone mailing list - sob....must investigate......