When Will There Be Good News?

When Will There Be Good News?When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

These books keep getting better and better. The only reason I didn’t rate this a “5” was because I found the American narrator’s “fake” Scottish and Irish accents very annoying. (Audio book narrated by Ellen Archer.) Jackson Brodie gets on the wrong train and ends up in a horrific train crash near Edinburgh. Reggie is a wonderful character, and provides the glue that holds the various plot threads together. Louise Munroe is back, but both she and Jackson have made life choices that would seem to put any chance of romance even farther away. Ms. Atkinson writes wonderful character studies, and tackles dark themes with an undercurrent of humor.

The first three books have now been turned into a three-part television series starring Jason Isaacs as Jackson Brodie. The first episode just aired this past Sunday in the US on Masterpiece Mystery, and will continue on the following two Sundays. It was mostly faithful to the book, although some of the more humorous or extreme elements were removed: Binky Raine’s cat “Nigger” was never mentioned by name, Jackson’s house is not blown up, the nudist club is missing, Amelia does not attempt suicide… Nevertheless, the end result is perhaps a bit easier to follow. I look forward to the next two episodes.

On a hot and beautiful day in the English countryside, six-year-old Joanna Mason witnesses an appalling crime. Thirty years later, the man convicted of the crime is released from prison. Sixteen-year-old Reggie works as a nanny for a doctor devoted to her new young son. But Dr. Joanna Hunter has gone missing, and Reggie, no stranger to bad luck and worse, seems to be the only person who is worried. Detective Chief Inspector Louise Monroe is also looking for a missing person, unaware that hurtling toward her is an old friend – Jackson Brodie – himself on a journey that becomes fatally interrupted. As lives and histories intersect, as past mistakes and current misfortunes collide, Jackson is caught up in the most personal, and dangerous, investigation of his life.

The Unbearable Lightness of Scones

The Unbearable Lightness of Scones (44 Scotland Street, #5)The Unbearable Lightness of Scones by Alexander McCall Smith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Alexander McCall-Smith has created a host of wonderful characters. I continue to care about them and their adventures, even after 5 books in this series. I listened to the audio version, deftly narrated by Robert Ian Mackenzie. Of course, he could read the phone book and it would be entertaining!

Book description from Amazon:
The witty and utterly delightful new novel in the national bestselling 44 Scotland Street series.

Featuring all the quirky characters we have come to know and love, The Unbearable Lightness of Scones, finds Bertie, the precocious six-year-old, still troubled by his rather overbearing mother, Irene, but seeking his escape in the Cub Scouts. Matthew is rising to the challenge of married life with newfound strength and resolve, while Domenica epitomizes the loneliness of the long-distance intellectual. Cyril, the gold-toothed star of the whole show, succumbs to the kind of romantic temptation that no dog can resist and creates a small problem, or rather six of them, for his friend and owner Angus Lordie.

With his customary deftness, Alexander McCall Smith once again brings us an absorbing and entertaining tale of some of Scotland’s most quirky and beloved characters–all set in the beautiful, stoic city of Edinburgh.

Darcy’s Story

Darcy's Story Darcy’s Story by Janet Aylmer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Here’s the next of the Darcy “during-quels” that I’ve just finished. This one also starts just before Georgiana’s escapade with Wickham and ends just after the wedding of Elizabeth and Darcy. It extensively quotes the dialog of Jane Austen, and is written from a third person point of view, but telling Darcy’s side of events. Even so, it did not really give me much insight into Darcy’s thoughts and feelings. What there was, was very repetitive. It made him almost self-deprecatory in a way that doesn’t fit his character in my mind. It was also lacking the suspense that Jane Austen created by keeping Darcy somewhat an enigma. If you want the story simply retold from Darcy’s point of view, then great, but there is no elaboration at all, or development of character, which I think makes it rather dull. It certainly didn’t offer any original insights or scenes.

Still, I gave it three stars. There was nothing objectionable or too out of character, time, or place. I did note some inconsistency in the use of the word inquiry / enquiry. Over all, I thought the author did a pretty good job of staying in the style of Jane Austen. But it’s not a book I would reread.

Bertie, Interrupted

I’ve been listening in the car lately to The World According to Bertie by Alexander McCall Smith. Last night I was headed into the Twin Cities (35 miles) so I reached over to the seat beside me to plug in my portable CD player. I was quite shocked to realize it wasn’t there! I stopped the car and proceeded to search front and back seats and even underneath them. No CD player. The CD case was there (with all but one CD), but no player.

Then I recalled a day last week at the library. A couple of teenaged boys came in and asked if we had a coat hanger. They said the keys were locked in their car. I suggested they ask for help next door with the sheriff. A few minutes later a patron came up to tell me that some boys were trying to get into a car with a stick through the window. I blithely said “Oh yes. They were just in here. They locked their keys in the car.” I should have gone to see exactly what they were doing.

Stupid, stupid, stupid! I am such an honest and naive person, it didn’t even occur to me that it could be anything other than what they told me. And I had left the CD player unplugged in the front seat (with cords attached), and left the windows cracked open (less than an inch) because of the heat (my car has no air conditioning.) When I left that evening, I noticed the visor screen was bent down on the passenger side. And it seemed like the window was open a lot more than I had left it. But it is only in retrospect that I thought anything of it. Yes, I’m an idiot.

I don’t mind the loss of the old CD player so much. In fact, I went and bought a new one today. It wasn’t expensive. But I DO mind the loss of the CD! It was borrowed from the library, and I suppose I’ll have to pay for it. In the meantime, do I continue to listen to the book from the remaining CDs, or do I look for another copy of it? Or will the CD get returned to the library? It’s possible, but I’m not holding my breath.

One way or another, I will finish listening to the book. Meanwhile, here is a description of the first two books in the series.
44 Scotland Street (44 Scotland Street, #1) 44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Listened to on tape (unabridged), Sept. 2006.

Review from AudioFile

Alexander McCall Smith modeled this book on the evergreen hit TALES OF THE CITY, by Armistead Maupin, which were published serially in the SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE. Smith’s appeared in an Edinburgh daily; the title refers to an address in Edinburgh where several of the main characters live. It’s a great device, imposing specific challenges to the storyteller, working in little chunks of uniform length, all with intriguing endings. The only thing that could be more fun than reading each installment in the paper is hearing Robert Ian MacKenzie’s thoroughly droll and versatile performance. You won’t soon forget the Conservative Party’s fundraising ball, with only six in attendance, one of whom forgot to wear underpants under his kilt. MacKenzie’s touch is flawless. B.G. © AudioFile 2005, Portland, Maine– Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine

Espresso Tales (44 Scotland Street, #2) Espresso Tales by Alexander McCall Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Listened to on tape (unabridged), Nov. 2007.
Book Description (from Amazon.com)
Alexander McCall Smith’s many fans will be pleased with this latest installment in the bestselling 44 Scotland Street series.

Back are all our favorite denizens of a Georgian townhouse in Edinburgh. Bertie the immensely talented six year old is now enrolled in kindergarten, and much to his dismay, has been clad in pink overalls for his first day of class. Bruce has lost his job as a surveyor, and between admiring glances in the mirror, is contemplating becoming a wine merchant. Pat is embarking on a new life at Edinburgh University and perhaps on a new relationship, courtesy of Domenica, her witty and worldly-wise neighbor. McCall Smith has much in store for them as the brief spell of glorious summer sunshine gives way to fall a season cursed with more traditionally Scottish weather.

Full of McCall Smith’s gentle humor and sympathy for his characters, Espresso Tales is also an affectionate portrait of a city and its people who, in the author’s own words, “make it one of the most vibrant and interesting places in the world.”