Sunday, 21 June 2009

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built

I think I understand why these No.1 Ladies Detective Agency books are so padded – it’s because they are written for serialisation. Almost every chapter contains either a mini-summary of the last chapter or else a synopsis of the entire plot to that point! Perfect for weekly or daily radio programmes, but painful if you are trying to read them in one or two sittings. Has Alexander McCall Smith received a fee from the radio dramatisation people to do most of their work for him!? 

I’m not quite sure whether to give the books a bad review, or applaud them for being accessible to people who might not otherwise do a lot of reading.

Actually, this latest one (Tea Time for the Traditionally Built, an entirely irrelevant title to anything in the novel, other than the rather tired joke about the heroine’s weight) was wittier and more interesting than the last few, certainly in the first 200 pages or so. But then McCall Smith ran out of space, and the plot threads were either sewn up in a couple of paragraphs, or quietly dropped.

These are certainly very well marketed works, though that does not inspire much faith in human nature, given the cloying quality to the blurb on TT’s dust jacket… “and, as wise and warm hearted as his heroine, Alexander McCall Smith reminds us that we must dig deep to uncover the great goodness of the human heart”. Not only a dubious sentiment but also not a fair representation of the book in question!

And yet, despite my extremely mixed feelings about them (see here for a day when I was better disposed!), I continue to read them. Like being addicted to really watery hot chocolate made with UHT milk. You can’t really blame the drink or the one who made it, but the one who keeps asking for it…