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Alexander McCall Smith

Sixty seconds with Alexander McCall Smith...

Alexander McCall Smith was born in what is now Zimbabwe and taught law at the University of Botswana. He is now Professor of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh. He has written more than fifty books but is best known for The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, which has achieved bestseller status on four continents. In 2004 he was awarded British Book Awards Author of the Year and Booksellers Association Author of the Year. He lives in Scotland, where in his spare time he is a bassoonist in the RTO (Really Terrible Orchestra).

RTE: Describe yourself in a sentence?

McCall Smith: A person who writes novels.

RTE: What's the one record you'd take to a desert island?

McCall Smith: A recording of Mozart’s Sove sia il vento from Cosi.

RTE: What did you want to be when you were growing up?

McCall Smith: I wanted to have an office, although I was never too sure what I would do in it.

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November 14 2015

This issue of RTE is going up a little later than scheduled. Just as I was settling in to getting it ready to post, I heard the news of the atrocity in Paris and found it impossible to put my mind to imaginary crime, crime as entertainment. I still find it hard, but here we go all the same.

It was also hard for me to write the review of Ruth Rendell's DARK CORNERS, not because of the book itself, but because it is the last time I will have the joy of reading a new Rendell. DARK CORNERS is authentic stand-alone Rendell and I am sorry to know that there will not be another.

John Rebus famously had to retire some years ago and Ian Rankin has been contriving ways to keep him active ever since. And a good thing, too, says Jim Napier of EVEN DOGS IN THE WILD, Rebus' latest appearance, which he found both fresh and exciting.

Rebus, though retired, is not gone; though Lisbeth Salander's creator died a number of years ago, she is also back, courtesy of David Lagerkrantz, whose THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER'S WEB is the first, though probably not the last, attempt to revive the Millennium Series. Karla Jay listened to the audio and reports that readers like herself who enjoyed the original will find this one satisfying. Though perhaps the use of the same narrator for the audio version plays a significant role in maintaining the continuity of the series, she suggests.

KATHERINE CARLYLE by Rupert Thomson is not technically a crime novel, but it is an extremely good book that should find favour with crime fiction readers who appreciate an excellent novel regardless of genre all the same. I thought it mesmerizing. Sharon Mensing found a very different book about girls a difficult read but in the end decided that Chevy Stevens' THOSE GIRLS was very hard to put down. She concludes by remarking that what she wanted next was a nice cosy and if that's the case, she might take a look at Tasha Alexander's THE ADVENTURESS, our only candidate in that category this week. But Cathy Downs found it all rather silly, so perhaps that's not the way to go.

It's getting colder around here these days and books with cold titles seem appropriate. Christine Zibas tells us that Thomas Cobb's DARKNESS THE COLOR OF SNOW is a beautiful novel "filled with characters that will break your heart." The weather in Sarah Ward's IN BITTER CHILL is cold and so is the case it investigates. Barbara Fister approved of the book if not the weather.

It's summer in Australia now and that's where Barry Maitland (of Brock & Kolla fame) has moved and relocated his fiction. CRUCIFIXION CREEK is the first of a proposed trilogy and Barbara Fister had mixed feelings about the turn toward Hollywood-style violence in its latter half.

We have three thrillers this week if you are in the mood for suspense. David Downing's ONE MAN'S FLAG, an historical spy novel set during the Great War, disappointed Anne Corey, who admires the author's Station series, but she has hopes for the series as it progresses. Another spy novel, Matthew Dunn's THE SPY HOUSE, is set in the present and unfortunately deals with the assassination of the Israeli ambassador to France in the streets of Paris. Perhaps not this week. GHOST SHIFT, by John Gapper, takes place in China and Anne Corey thought it was gripping on the whole.

This year's edition of THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES, edited by James Patterson and Otto Penzler is out and Lourdes Venard says the collection's emphasis on the psychology of crime makes for an edgy set of stories.

Finally, something completely different. Rick Geary's LOUISE BROOKS: DETECTIVE is a graphic novel that imagines the Kansas life of a now largely forgotten silent screen star. It is affectionate and charming, says Ben Neal.

Alexander McCall Smith is our guest in the "Sixty Seconds with..." feature to your left. Do pay him a visit.

To stay in touch with crime fiction in Britain, you can pay a visit to CRIMEREVIEW where our former colleagues are keeping a keen eye on things over there.

We'll be back in a couple of weeks and hope you will be too.



P.S. If you wish to submit a book for review, please check here before contacting us. Please note that we do not review self-published books.

Our mascot and masthead is Smokey the Cat. Smokey the cat went to the great playground in the sky on April 29, 2008, at 3:30 p.m. He was about 13 years old, had diabetes and only 11 teeth left. He is much happier now. He will remain as our masthead and mascot.

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Since RTE first appeared, some twelve years ago, the business of books has changed out of all recognition. Then, books were reviewed in the print media for the most part, though Amazon was encouraging readers to post their reviews of the books they read. Now, newspapers across North America have reduced or eliminated the space they allot to books and, with certain notable exceptions, only best-selling authors are likely to get noticed. As a result, electronic reviewing has become increasingly important and, due to the somewhat slippery question of online authorship, occasionally problematic.

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