Thursday, January 25, 2007

Isabel Dalhousie x 2 by Alexander McCall Smith

Mr Bani bought me Friends, Lovers, Chocolate as an impromptu gift, and also borrowed the sequel, The Right Attitude to Rain for me from his colleague. In the former our philosopher Isabel discovers that she is not only fond of but actually romantically interested in her niece Cat's former boyfriend Jamie, and in the latter the two of them do really hit it off.

While reading these I was also thinking about how come I prefer the Mma Ramotswe series, when really the tone set in the two series is not that dissimilar. Is it just exotism on my part? I don't think so... I think that the Botswana books will always work better for the simple reason that a detective agency is a good frame for the problem-solving, whereas with Isabel Dalhousie one only has her nosiness as an excuse and that sometimes doesn't seem sufficient. I mean, the author has to chuck in a few too many coincidences to make it fly, I think. Also, for some reason Isabel seems a little more remote as a character. I'm not sure why. Perhaps the fact that Precious Ramotswe has experienced such pain in her life (the loss of her child for example) makes her more believable as a character... no, now I sound a little unfair, since Isabel too has experienced loss... Maybe it's that Precious's flaws are more explicit, thus making her more human, whereas Isabel's flaws aren't portrayed as clearly?

But it's quite sweet all the same.


HB said...

I've only read McCall Smith, but I agree that a detective agency (or a police station) is a good frame for problem solving. If people don't have "detecting" as a job, you will oftenend up with too many coincidences. But there are a few other ocupations that work well too, I think. Journalist, for instance (Lindsay Gordon!:-)) Can you think of others?

bani said...

You know, I think that it has to be something that involves skill at research at least. Ordinary people are victims of crime, or criminals, or stumble upon it - but when it comes to clearing it up we generally won't have a clue. However, IMO academics are an underused group of people. You could be a crime fic hero. Although perhaps the crime should start out as a pure research crime, and then only become a little violent at the end. :)

HB said...

Good idea with the academics! And I agree they are underused. Someone could do research on an obscure religious cult - that could be interesting. And then one has to make sure one doesn't copy Laurie R King..

bani said...

Did you ever read Den tionde sånggudinnan by any chance? Carina Burman? Academic research as detective work (and gay theme too...). I read it years ago and liked it, but I haven't managed any of her other books, they sucked that much.