2 April 2008

Writing winners

I'm still monitoring the Amazon UK RSS feed of their top 25 Bestsellers in Crime, Thrillers & Mystery.

A QUIET BELIEF IN ANGELS, R.J. Ellory has been at the top for a long time now.
But without taking anything away from that, have a look at Alexander McCall Smith. - 3 books in the top 10. That has to be some sort of record!
Undoubtedly the release in the UK of the film has sent people scurrying to the bookshops.
  1. A Quiet Belief in Angels by R.J. Ellory
  2. The Good Husband of Zebra Drive (No 1 Ladies Detective Agency 8) by Alexander McCall Smith
  3. Nothing to Lose by Lee Child
  4. The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
  5. The Woods by Harlan Coben
  6. A Prisoner of Birth by Jeffrey. Archer
  7. The Girl of His Dreams by Donna Leon
  8. Dissolution (Matthew Shardlake 1) by C.J. Sansom
  9. Centurion (Roman Legion 8) by Simon Scarrow
  10. Blue Shoes and Happiness (No 1 Ladies Detective Agency 7) by Alexander McCall Smith
I have the last 2 McCall Smith's in my database, and both scored highly. I haven't liked much else that he's written outside of the No 1. Ladies Detective Agency series though. I hated the Isabel Dalhousie offerings, and didn't much like the sort of "MAD comic" humour of PORTUGUESE IRREGULAR VERBS. 44 SCOTLAND STREET I admired without particularly enjoying - too Edinburgh for me.

Over on Susan Hill's blog, a reader took her to task over the political correctness, even patronising tone, of the No 1. Ladies series, after she said she enjoyed them. The fun started on Feb 29 and continued for a few days. I so agreed with what she said: It is like a warm bath but a little more bracing. And laugh-aloud funny. And full of charm and little phrases you wish you had thought up yourself.
Comments on her blog are polarised and the next day she wrote My pleasure in them has been slightly soured. I feel guilty about enjoying them.
Finally she commented: If the Botswanans love them and are proud of it all and delighted to have the filming going on in Gabarone, then who on earth are we to disagree ? Very interesting conversations.

Anyway, my mini-reviews:

A most enjoyable reading of the book. The voices are well done, and the reading gives you plenty of time to think about the story. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is under threat from another agency newly established in town. Mma Ramotswe has problems at home with the children, and her assistant Mma Makutsi starts up a typing class and falls in love. The CD version is slightly abridged and I am not sure what I missed out on.
My rating: 4.5

In this seventh installment in the internationally bestselling, universally beloved series, there is considerable excitement at the shared premises of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors. A cobra has been found in Precious Ramotswe's office. Then a nurse from a local medical clinic reveals to Mma Ramotswe that faulty blood-pressure readings are being recorded there. And it looks as though Aunty Emang, the advice columnist in the local newspaper, may not be what she seems. I thought this series had come to an end and I'm so pleased that it hasn't. A comfortable, gentle read. My rating: 4.9

#8 in the No. 1 LADIES DETECTIVE AGENCY series.
After I read the previous title in this series, I thought perhaps it was coming to an end; that McCall Smith had no more to tell, could do no more with the material. How wrong I was! With THE GOOD HUSBAND OF ZEBRA DRIVE the series swings upward to another peak. Matters come to a point between that traditionally built lady Precious Ramotswe and her secretary Mma Makutsi when the latter takes the afternoon off to do some shopping when she is supposed to be minding the office. Mma Makutsi decides to resign and to look for a new job. Meanwhile, when Mma Makutsi was absent, Precious Ramotswe’s husband, Mr. J L. B. Matekoni interviewed a client, and he tells his wife he would like to follow that case through, carrying out the investigation himself. A cousin working in the administration of the public hospital in Mochudi comes to see Precious Ramotswe about some unexplained deaths at the hospital, so once again the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency has its hands full.
My rating: 5

There is something about reading these stories that is rather like meeting up with old friends. But don’t underestimate McCall Smith as a writer. The characters are gently but so graphically drawn, with touches of humour, and situations you can imagine witnessing. And in #8 McCall Smith makes use of an urban legend that I’m sure you’ll recognise. There’s no sex, no violence, rarely any blood and gore in these novels. And yet there is murder, mystery and crime, just enough to challenge the reader’s little grey cells.


Marg said...

I really enjoy this series. I am hoping that I am going to get it in from the library really soon!

lindam said...

I had come across this series in dribs & drabs some time ago.
Then I read some non No 1 Ladies Detective agency books, & was completely turned off A M S books
Recently, I heve refreshed my acquaintance of this series, starting from the beginning. Am currently up to no 5 & loving them!
They are so quaint, easy to listen to & full of interesting viewpoints that seem so "cloistered", but aren't really!!
Does anyone know what Mr JLB's 1st name is????
Do I really want to know???


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