Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the highly successful No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, which has sold over twenty-five million copies. Since then he has devoted his time to the writing of fiction and has seen his various series of books translated into over forty-six languages and become bestsellers throughout the world. These include the 44 Scotland Street novels, first published as a serial novel in the Scotsman, the Isabel Dalhousie novels, the Von Igelfeld series and the Corduroy Mansions novels.
McCall Smith is such a prolific author that he needs at least three readers to keep up with him. The series that transpire in Scotland have two performers. Davina Porter narrates the Sunday Philosophy Club series while Mackenzie performs the series about 44 Scotland Street. Porter is the better performer as she catches the various cadences of Edinburgh's middle class. Mackenzie's characters sound pretty much alike in terms of their accents, with the exception of Angus's hearty brogue. Its also annoying that some of the women are given the same tiny voices used for a six-year-old genius. Best is Mackenzie's over-the-top enactment of Lard, a Glaswegian gangster and his cohorts with their barely comprehensible street slang and thick accents. The major problem with this production is the lugubrious pace of the narration. Although Espresso Tales is the second book in a series, the audio helpfully provides two summaries of characters and events at the beginning. Despite the reader's lack of pep, the author's sly, gentle humor shines through and makes this audio charming and engaging. Simultaneous release with the Anchor paperback (Reviews, May 22). (July) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
'... A joyous, charming portrait of city life and human foibles, which moves beyond its setting to deal with deep moral issues and love, desire and friendship'-- Melissa McClements * Sunday Express *
'A light-hearted, genial soap opera'* Financial Times Magazine *
'Edinburgh still rocks... it's the people that make the city what it is. And here they are, warts and all, the ordinary and the extraordinary, the misfits and the prosperous ...'-- Digby Durrant * The Spectator *
'like bathing in glorious prose'-- Simon Mayo * BBC Radio 5 *
Adult/High School-This is the second volume of a serial novel that the author has been publishing in The Scotsman about a group of loosely connected people living in present-day Edinburgh. The most interesting character for teen readers is Bertie Pollock, a precocious six-year-old who is being forced by his mother to study Italian, play the saxophone, take yoga, and endure psychoanalysis because of his understandable rebellion against her efforts to prevent him from being an ordinary boy. Bertie and his father grow closer and eventually assert their independence. Mrs. Pollock, meanwhile, has her own moments of revelation as she discovers that the analyst is not as perfect as she thought. The other stories revolve around a coffee-shop owner and some of her patrons and the residents of 44 Scotland Street, who were the subjects of the first book. Many of the characters are strikingly flawed, but McCall Smith eventually finds some redeeming, human side to them. He examines Scottish culture, from would-be art and wine dealers to raincoat-wearing nudists and members of the Scottish mafia. The relationships among the characters grow in unexpected and touching ways. The author has a critical yet forgiving eye for human failings. This novel is a prose poem about the small things in life that are being threatened by globalization and mass entertainment.-Will Marston, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.