These are great summer reads, whether you are on the beach or sitting at home. But don’t think either of these masterful authors are just for summer, either. Both have great backlists to explore.
Alexander McCall Smith’s humorous series are always endearing yet truthful. The second offering in the Corduroy Mansions series is The Dog Who Came in From the Cold. This series takes place in the Pimlico section of London,with Smith’s sense of setting is as firm as ever.
Pimlico terrier Freddie de la Hay lightens the life of failed oenophile William French. The breed may be made up, but French’s affection for this little dog is not. What happens when Freddie is pressed by MI6 into the service of Her Majesty’s government is just one of the delightful story threads followed in this installment, which revolves around the residents of the worn Pimlico mansion of the series title.
Berthea Snark is the psychiatrist who finds herself out of love with her own son and plotting to write his biography to set the world straight about her MP son. It’s her brother Terence who has her attention at the moment, that trusting soul whose newest infatuation is with a New Age couple who have convinced Terence his home is the preordained place for their cosmological studies. Berthea must snap into action to rout out the scammers, and how she goes about it is just one of the silly but lovable portions of the book. We also continue the story of literary agent Barbara Ragg,who has a new love in her life, and an old contract with a writer who insists he is being dictated the autobiography of a Yeti. With Barbara in Scotland, her partner, Rupert Porter, struggles to catch a look of this Yeti. “Hilarity ensues” doesn’t begin to describe Rupert’s fall from grace, but there are anchovies involved.
With his trademark wit and insights into human behavior that prove universal, it’s small wonder McCall Smith is adored in many countries.
Next up is CWA Silver, Gold and Diamond dagger winner Peter Lovesey. With stand alones and three other series, Stagestruck is the newest in his Inspector Peter Diamond series, set in Bath.
Lovesey is not afraid to take risks with his character’s lives, which I admire. In this outing, Diamond’s love life is stable for the moment. It’s his professional life that is driving him to confront his own phobia, which revolves around the theater, and which he is forced to confront when murders start to multiply at the Bath’s Theatre Royal.
Lovesey is another writer who uses his setting to enhance his novels, and we are transported to Bath and to the drama that takes place in theatre life behind the curtain. It starts when a pop diva debuts in a production designed to resurrect her failing career. With mixed feelings about her talent on stage, but great anticipation from her fans, opening night disaster strikes when she appears and within moments steps out of character and screams, clawing at her face.
Disfiguring burns, traced to her stage makeup, have ended her stage career before it began. When the makeup artist is found dead, Diamond and his team must sort through the rivalries of the cast and crew to find a murderer. Along the way, there are encounters with a theatre ghost, and the addition to Diamond’s team of a riddling detective who drives him crazy. Lovesey’s humor is at the top of his form here, but he has a knack of never letting it detract from his well-constsructed plot. The Chicago Tribune has said: “Lovesey’s books are so beautifully constructed and cleanly written that they could be used as textbooks in a crime writing course.”