The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel -

The Care­ful Use of Com­pli­ments Alexan­der McCall Smith (Lit­tle Brown, $32.95) NO con­tem­po­rary au­thor writes as lov­ingly about Ed­in­burgh as McCall Smith. His fel­low Scots­man Ian Rankin does the noir side of the cap­i­tal; McCall Smith moves in more po­lite cir­cles, but all cities have un­der­bel­lies, as gen­teel philoso­pher Is­abel Dal­housie well knows. This ti­tle is the latest in the Dal­housie col­lec­tion, per­haps the least en­joy­able of McCall Smith’s mul­ti­ple se­ries. Botswana’s No 1 case-solver, Pre­cious Ramotswe, and the ec­cen­tric char­ac­ters of the 44Scot­landStreet books are far more be­guil­ing than Dal­housie, who is es­sen­tially a nosy parker and an ir­ri­tat­ing one at that. In her fourth air­ing, she has had a baby with Jamie, her niece’s for­mer lover; this seems a mi­nor mir­a­cle as Dal­housie comes across as such an an­tique I had thought she was a prim, pearl-but­toned 70, at least. What McCall Smith does so tri­umphantly is to sum­mon a sense of place: here we have Scot­land writ bold as Dal­housie sleuths around the is­land of Jura, with its stretches of heather and scree and ru­ined crofts, and wheels her wee son through Ed­in­burgh with its dark closes and gloomy grey build­ings. Susan Kuro­sawa

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