Review

A Conspiracy of Friends: A Corduroy Mansions Novel

by Alexander McCall Smith

Freddie de la Hay, a playful and intelligent terrier, exhibits his charm and calm demeanor on the cover of A CONSPIRACY OF FRIENDS to give readers a foreshadowing of what appears on the book’s pages.

One of its multiple plots involves Freddie, who answers only to Hay. His owner, William French, takes him on a trip to the country, where he follows the delicious scent of rabbits slightly too far. Becoming lost, he finds himself on a country road. Fortunately, a lovely lady comes along and takes him to her house, where currently there are no pets or children. Freddie certainly lucks out and is treated like royalty. Will he get back home, or will he live with his new family for the duration of his life?

"Each short chapter in this book represents an aspect of or adventure in the character’s existence, and they literally come to life as Smith weaves his tales. We can only hope that Corduroy Mansions has just as long a run as his No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series."

The manner in which Alexander McCall Smith approaches a character is truly unique. Capturing the essence and delicate details of each is his gift. For example, let’s examine Oedipus Snark, a resident of Corduroy Mansions. Clearly the most colorful and political character, Snark is despised by most people who come into contact with him --- including his mother! She has such a grave dislike for her son that she ordered a DNA test to try and disprove his lineage. Oedipus is the perfect example of hubris. He expects to be treated with the utmost respect and can’t tolerate anything that’s second class. As a newly elected government minister, he believes that he is entitled to use the VIP amenities at Heathrow and should travel first class. Unfortunately, his status is that of an important, but not very important, government official.

Another storyline develops when Hugh, an admitted gigolo, befriends Barbara, a fiery Spaniard, on a cruise to Jamaica. The wife of an aeronautical engineer, Barbara is a lonely voyager looking for companionship.

While reading A CONSPIRACY OF FRIENDS, I was constantly reminded of the classic film Rear Window, starting Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly. While recovering from an accident, Stewart’s character is in a wheelchair, spending every day and night watching his neighbors. He is privy to their idiosyncrasies, comings and goings, and behaviors. Each short chapter in this book represents an aspect of or adventure in the character’s existence, and they literally come to life as Smith weaves his tales. We can only hope that Corduroy Mansions has just as long a run as his No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series.

Reviewed by Marge Fletcher on July 13, 2012

A Conspiracy of Friends: A Corduroy Mansions Novel
by Alexander McCall Smith

  • Publication Date: June 12, 2012
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon
  • ISBN-10: 0307907236
  • ISBN-13: 9780307907233