Friday, March 23, 2007

A Sure Thing

What could be more sure than this: an Alexander McCall Smith novel, read by Davina Porter? I hyperventilated as I picked The Sunday Philosophy Club, blurbed as a mystery, off the library shelf.

Davina Porter, as you know, is my all-time favorite narrator, complete with various British accents and a generally good grasp of what's going on in a story and who should sound like what.

Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, a funny set of mysteries that takes place in Botswana. It's the first series in a long time that makes me long for the next one to come out. And the audio versions are narrated by my other all-time favorite, Lisette Lecat, another master of accents and innuendo.

Imagine my confusion as this unfunny book ambled along, paying little attention to the mystery. It features Isabel Dalhousie, a philosopher and amateur sleuth in Edinburgh, and the community she moves among. Isabel is given to long philosophical considerations which require patience on the part of the reader (and, apparently, on the part of the other characters in the book), and which sometimes, though not always, end up having a bearing on the plot.

I stuck with it, however, on the basis of my previous experience with the author and the narrator, and decided at the end that it was a good story—the mystery revived itself, and some humor flashed through, including mentions of crushed-strawberry trousers that have made appearances in other books. I liked it enough that I'm listening to the next one: Friends, Lovers, Chocolate. It helps that I know what to expect, and I do enjoy the development of the same cast of characters.

Perhaps some of the charm of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series is that it takes place in a country completely different from mine, so much more can be considered funny, or at least surprising; possibly someone from Botswana would consider it tedious and completely expected. [No; I've just finished The Kalahari Typing School for Men, and it is genuinely funny.] I'm looking forward to the next one, in any case; The Good Husband of Zebra Drive is due out in mid-April.

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