Review

The Dog Who Came in From the Cold: A Corduroy Mansions Novel

by Alexander McCall Smith

Breaking news, Alexander McCall Smith fans: The master of the novella has broken his own mold --- he's written a spy novel!

We were first introduced to our four-legged hero, Freddie de la Hay, in last year's CORDUROY MANSIONS. Adventure seems to go looking for Freddie, a former drug-sniffing Pimlico terrier for the Crown, who has found peaceful retirement with William French, a modestly successful wine merchant in London. William is a widower lamenting his current bachelorhood and contemplating a future that is, at the moment, devoid of female companionship. The few women who have ventured into his life have found him somewhat stuffy or too fussy and have drifted away.

Alexander McCall Smith administers his special brand of gentle humor freely throughout his books in his droll and wise commentaries on the foibles, culture gaps and societal ills of today.

When an attractive and vaguely familiar middle-aged woman rings his doorbell, he is delighted and invites her in for tea. She once owned a bookstore near his wine shop when he was still married, and as they renew their acquaintance, she lets it drop that she is now single, out of the book business and working for the government. As the conversation progresses, she lets it slip that she works for MI6, the British equivalent of the CIA; before long, the real reason for her visit comes to light. She tells William, much to his consternation, that he has been under surveillance by MI6 for some time, and it has been decided that he, or rather his dog, Freddie de la Hay, whose reputation for dependability precedes him, would be of valuable service to the Crown. Intrigued, William agrees to meet with her superiors and further discuss this stunning turn of affairs. Freddie, after being inducted into MI6, is fitted with a transmitting radio collar to eavesdrop on some dangerous foreign criminals and finds his life in jeopardy.

As in all of Smith's books, there dwells a running cast of characters whose lives intersect in fascinating ways. His encounters with his co-tenants of the condominium complex, their friends and families are informal, but frequently lead to amusing and significant consequences.

For instance, Barbara Ragg, a partner in an established London publishing house, was formerly engaged to a now disgraced Member of Parliament whose mother, Berthea Snark, is a friend of William's. Barbara's romance was dashed on the rocks, partly due to Berthea's timely meddling in CORDUROY MANSIONS. Barbara's publishing career now takes an unlikely turn as she pursues a writer who claims to be communicating with a genuine Abominable Snowman he met in the Himalyas.

Another member of the ensemble, the common-sense challenged Terence Moongrove, Berthea Snark's brother, is being swindled out of his Queen Ann home by a pair of New Age con artists. Berthea applies her special kind of logic to the situation to once again rescue her brother from disaster. A psychotherapist with a wicked sense of humor, she says that "laughter, so rarely prescribed by any clinician, was surely the most therapeutic thing in the world. And now, she had read, there were studies to prove it --- something the drug companies would not be happy about, since laughter was free, could be administered by anybody, and had no negative side effects."

Alexander McCall Smith administers his special brand of gentle humor freely throughout his books in his droll and wise commentaries on the foibles, culture gaps and societal ills of today.

Reviewed by Roz Shea on July 3, 2011

The Dog Who Came in From the Cold: A Corduroy Mansions Novel
by Alexander McCall Smith

  • Publication Date: May 29, 2012
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor
  • ISBN-10: 0307739449
  • ISBN-13: 9780307739445