Here’s a name you should know: Alexander McCall Smith. He is a British author—a prolific British author—born in Zimbabwe, best known for his #1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. The series features Precious Ramotswe and contains 17 books to date, all set in Botswana. Some of these were presented on HBO.
My sister-in-law lived in this area of Africa for seven years, and she said the depictions are absolutely authentic. But McCall is so much more than one series! His writing is excellent, his characters grab your heart, he uses lots of humor, and he’s an all-around feel-good read!
Set in Edinburgh, the 44 Scotland Street series contains 11 novels, with wonderful people portraits and gentle satire. Bertie is the center of it all.
Also set in Edinburgh, The Sunday Philosophy Club series, featuring Isobel Dalhousie, contains 14 books. Isobel is a professional philosopher and amateur sleuth. USA TODAY said “Isobel is a force to be reckoned with.” NEWSWEEK said, “Remarkable. . . [Isobel] is such good copany, it’s hard to believe she is fictional.”
Professor Dr. Von Igelfeld is the somewhat bumbling academic sleuth in the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series. Only 4 books to date, but we can hope for more. I don’t know what McCall’s experiences are with his setting in Germany, but he certainly nailed the academic politics and atmosphere!
So far there are 3 books in the Corduroy Mansions series. The location is Pimlico; the cast of characters are the residents of Corduroy Mansions, plus McCall Smith’s first canine star, Freddie de la Hay.
McCall Smith has written 5 books in two series for children: School Ship Tobermory Children’s Series and the Precious Children’s Series/Precious Ramotswe Mysteries for Young Readers.
As if all of that were not enough, Alexander McCall Smith has published 11 stand-alone books, set in various times and places. For example, Dream Angus is set in twentieth-century Scotland. Dream Angus comes at night bestowing dreams. He’s also the god of love, youth and beauty. Magical realism, anyone?
TWO REASONS TO READ ALEXANDER McCALL SMITH: 1) If you like series, you can stick with him for a long time, and 2) if you are a writer, skip hither and yon among his offerings to sample one writer’s diversity.