A Conspiracy of Friends (Corduroy Mansions Series #3)

( 12 )

Overview

CORDUROY MANSIONS - Book 3

In the Corduroy Mansions series of novels, set in London’s hip Pimlico neighborhood, we meet a cast of charming eccentrics, including perhaps the world’s most clever terrier, who make their home in a handsome, though slightly dilapidated, apartment block. 

The universe seems to be conspiring against Freddie ...

See more details below
Paperback
$12.11
BN.com price
(Save 19%)$15.00 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (27) from $1.99   
  • New (11) from $8.32   
  • Used (16) from $1.99   
A Conspiracy of Friends (Corduroy Mansions Series #3)

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK Study
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$9.99
BN.com price

Overview

CORDUROY MANSIONS - Book 3

In the Corduroy Mansions series of novels, set in London’s hip Pimlico neighborhood, we meet a cast of charming eccentrics, including perhaps the world’s most clever terrier, who make their home in a handsome, though slightly dilapidated, apartment block. 

The universe seems to be conspiring against Freddie de la Hay and his neighbors at Corduroy Mansions, as they all struggle with their nearest and dearest in this captivating third installment of Alexander McCall Smith’s London series.
 
Berthea Snark is still at work on a scathing biography of her son, Oedipus, the only loathsome Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament; literary agents Rupert Porter and Barbara Ragg are in a showdown for first crack at the Autobiography of a Yeti manuscript; fine arts graduate Caroline Jarvis is exploring the blurry line between friendship and romance; and William French is worrying that his son, Eddie, will never leave home, even with Eddie’s new, wealthy girlfriend in the picture. But foremost in everyone’s mind is William’s faithful dog, Freddie de la Hay, who has disappeared while on a mystery tour of the Suffolk countryside. Will Freddie find his way home, or will Corduroy Mansions be left without its beloved mascot?

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A heart-warming read. . . . [and] an excellent tonic for whatever ails you.”
    —The Toronto Star

“McCall Smith cooks up a delicious story . . . with a dash of mystery and a dollop of satire. . . . Comfortable, easy, homey.”
    —The Washington Post
 
“Fascinating fare. . . . McCall Smith is by turns hilarious . . . and meditative.”
   —Booklist (starred review)
 
“Teeming with charm. . . . ample humor and grace.”
   —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“This third volume of Chekhovian soap opera is every bit as addictive as the first two.”
   —Kirkus Reviews

“You cannot beat McCall Smith for subtle musings shot through with insight and wit. His deft characterization enlivens the inner workings of everyday characters. His work offers a heartening view of [the] world.”
   —The Daily Telegraph (London)

“[Full] of warmth and wisdom and easy, accomplished writing that begs for a comfy chair.”
   —The Times (London)

“Whimsical. . . . McCall Smith specializes in subplots that punctuate the book like polka dots, relying on his considerable literary skills to link them into a merry pattern of human events.”
   —The Washington Times

“Quirky and original. . . . Told with warmth, wit and intelligence, and McCall Smith’s cast of characters are beautifully observed.”
   —Daily Express

From The Critics
“A heart-warming read. . . . [and] an excellent tonic for whatever ails you.”
    —The Toronto Star

“McCall Smith cooks up a delicious story . . . with a dash of mystery and a dollop of satire. . . . Comfortable, easy, homey.”
    —The Washington Post
 
“Fascinating fare. . . . McCall Smith is by turns hilarious . . . and meditative.”
   —Booklist (starred review)
 
“Teeming with charm. . . . ample humor and grace.”
   —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“This third volume of Chekhovian soap opera is every bit as addictive as the first two.”
   —Kirkus Reviews

“You cannot beat McCall Smith for subtle musings shot through with insight and wit. His deft characterization enlivens the inner workings of everyday characters. His work offers a heartening view of [the] world.”
   —The Daily Telegraph (London)

“[Full] of warmth and wisdom and easy, accomplished writing that begs for a comfy chair.”
   —The Times (London)

“Whimsical. . . . McCall Smith specializes in subplots that punctuate the book like polka dots, relying on his considerable literary skills to link them into a merry pattern of human events.”
   —The Washington Times

“Quirky and original. . . . Told with warmth, wit and intelligence, and McCall Smith’s cast of characters are beautifully observed.”
   —Daily Express

Publishers Weekly
Short on plot but teeming with charm, this confection takes its cue from Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City. For the third time, Smith (The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency) visits the self-contained fictional world encompassing the residents of Corduroy Mansions in London’s Pimlico neighborhood. The book opens by introducing an immense ensemble cast, which includes Oedipus Snark, “the only truly nasty Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament”; his mother, Berthea, at work on a “hostile biography” of her son; Berthea’s brother, a New Ager called Terence Moongrove; literary agent (and Snark’s former lover) Barbara Ragg; her odious business partner, Rupert Porter; as well as the hapless, affable wine merchant William French and his dog, Freddie de la Hay. Each has his or her own tale: a conflict at work, a longing for love, the search for new smells (that would be Freddie). There are as many plots in this genial, satisfying narrative as there are characters, and it’s a testament to Smith’s gifts as a storyteller that he’s able to bind the whole together with such a slender narrative thread. His ample humor and grace helps. Agent: Robin Straus. (June)
Kirkus Reviews
The third installment in a series concerning the denizens of London's Corduroy Mansions. Member of Parliament Oedipus Snark has been appointed Undersecretary of This and That, but his psychotherapist mother Berthea still doesn't like him. Nor does his ex-lover Barbara Ragg, whose knowledge of his unsavory past gives her an unexpected opportunity for revenge. It's likely to provide cold comfort from a rift that looms with her fiancé, Hugh, after the confessions they feel impelled to make to each other, or the revenge of his own that Rupert Porter, Barbara's partner in the literary agency their fathers founded, plots after Barbara decides not to sell him the flat her father left her after all. Wine merchant William French's son Eddie, financed by his heiress girlfriend, Merle, hires Cosmo Bartonette, the sharpest design eye in London, to decorate a space he wants to turn into a Hemingway-themed restaurant, and in the process he learns a bit about both Cosmo and himself. William's own quiet life is complicated by an avowal of love as unexpected as it is unwelcome and by the disappearance of his beloved Pimlico Terrier Freddie de la Hay, late of MI6 (The Dog Who Came in from the Cold, 2011, etc.). Caroline Jarvis, William's downstairs neighbor, wonders whether life will offer her any deeper relationships than the one she enjoys with her best, best friend James. And Berthea's brother, Terence Moongrove, moves up from his new Porsche to become part owner of a racecar he intends to drive himself. This third volume of Chekhovian soap opera is every bit as addictive as the first two. Fans will be sad to see any of the plots tied up, even by happy endings, and hope for more complications next season.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307948007
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/30/2013
  • Series: Corduroy Mansions Series , #3
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 175,712
  • Product dimensions: 5.16 (w) x 7.97 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith is also the author of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series and the 44 Scotland Street series. He is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and has served with many national and international organizations concerned with bioethics. He lives in Scotland. Visit him at www.alexandermccallsmith.com.

Biography

Alexander McCall Smith was born in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) and went to school in Bulawayo, near the Botswana border. Although he moved to Scotland to attend college and eventually settled in Edinburgh, he always felt drawn to southern Africa and taught law for a while at the University of Botswana. He has written a book on the criminal law of Botswana, and among his successful children's books is a collection of African folk tales, Children of Wax.

Eventually, Smith had an urge to write a novel about a woman who would embody the qualities he admired in the people of Botswana, and the result, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, was a surprise hit, receiving two special Booker citations and a place on the Times Literary Supplement's International Books of the Year and the Millennium list. "The author's prose has the merits of simplicity, euphony and precision," Anthony Daniels wrote in the Sunday Telegraph. "His descriptions leave one as if standing in the Botswanan landscape. This is art that conceals art. I haven't read anything with such unalloyed pleasure for a long time."

Despite the book's success in the U.K., American publishers were slow to take an interest, and by the time The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency was picked up by Pantheon Books, Smith had already written two sequels. The books went from underground hits to national phenomena in the United States, spawning fan clubs and inspiring celebratory reviews. Smith is also the author of a detective series featuring the insatiably curious philosopher Isabel Dalhousie and the 44 Scotland Street novels, which present a witty portrait of Edinburgh society

In an interview on the publisher's web site, Smith says he thinks the country of Botswana "particularly chimes with many of the values which Americans feel very strongly about -- respect for the rule of law and for individual freedom. I hope that readers will also see in these portrayals of Botswana some of the great traditional virtues in Africa -- in particular, courtesy and a striking natural dignity."

Good To Know

As a professor at Edinburgh Law School, Smith specializes in criminal law and medical law, and has written about the legal and ethical aspects of euthanasia, medical research, and medical practice.

When he isn't writing books or teaching, Smith finds time to play the bassoon in the candidly named amateur ensemble he co-founded, The Really Terrible Orchestra.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

1. The Only Unpleasant Liberal Democrat
 
Oedipus Snark had a number of distinctions in this life. The first of these—and perhaps the most remarkable—was that he was, by common consent, the only truly nasty Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament. This was not just an accolade bestowed upon him by journalists in search of an amusing soubriquet, it was a judgement agreed upon by all those who knew him, including, most notably, his mother. Berthea Snark, a well-known psychoanalyst who lived in a small, undistinguished mews house behind Corduroy Mansions, had tried very hard to love her son, but had eventually given up, thus joining that minuscule group—mothers who cannot abide their sons. So rare is the phenomenon, and so willing are most mothers to forgive their sons any shortcoming, that this demographic—that is to say, in English, these people—is completely ignored by marketeers. And that, as we all know, is the real test of significance. If marketeers ignore you, you are not worth bothering about; you are nothing; you are—to put it brutally—a nondemographic.
 
So intense was Berthea’s distaste for her son that she had once seriously contemplated arranging a DNA test to see whether there was any chance that Oedipus had been mixed up with her real infant in hospital and given to the wrong mother. She knew that this was clutching at straws, but she had read about such errors in a popular psychology magazine and concluded that there was a chance, just a chance, that it had happened to her. The author of the article had for years researched the psychological profile of those who had lived a large part of their life under a false belief as to the identity of their father and had only later discovered the mistake. In the course of discussing this not entirely uncommon problem, the author had casually mentioned two cases of a rather different error, where the woman thought to be mother was discovered not to be mother after all.
 
One of these cases had been of a boy who had been given by his mother to her sister in an act of generosity. The donor, who had six children already, had decided that her childless sister’s need for a baby was greater than her own and had generously—and not without some relief—donated this seventh child. It had worked to the satisfaction of all, and when the truth slipped out—as the truth sometimes does in spite of our best efforts to conceal it—the reaction of the boy, now a young man of eighteen, had been admirable. There had been no recriminations, or sense of betrayal: he had gone straight to the florist, purchased a large bouquet of flowers and handed it to the woman who he had assumed all those years was his real mother. Love, he had written on the accompanying card, is thicker than blood.
 
Berthea could not imagine Oedipus doing such a thing. In fact, she found it difficult to remember when her son had last given her a present; not that she held it against him, even if she had noted it as a point that she might at least touch upon in a suitable chapter of the unauthorised biography of him that she was currently writing. And here was the second of his distinctions: there are few, if any, examples of hostile biographies written by mothers. Berthea, though, was well advanced in her plans, and the manuscript of the work provisionally entitled My Son Oedipus was already two hundred and ten typewritten pages long.
 
Those pages took us only as far as the end of Oedipus’s schooldays. He had been sent to boarding school when he was ten, spending a short time at a very dubious prep school in the West Country before winning a scholarship to Uppingham. The prep school, now closed down by the authorities, was found to be a moneylaundering scheme dreamed up by an Irish racehorse owner; and while the boys were for the most part entirely happy (not surprisingly, given that the headmaster took them to the racetrack three times a week), their education left a great deal to be desired. Oedipus, though, had thrived, and had won the Uppingham scholarship by arranging for another boy at the school, an intellectual prodigy, to impersonate him in the scholarship examination. This had the desired result and brought, rather to the surprise of his mother, an offer of a full scholarship, covering the cost of tuition and boarding. 

“I know I’m failing as a mother,” Berthea confessed to a friend at the time. “I’m perfectly aware of that. But, quite frankly, much as I love my son, I’m always relieved when Oedipus goes off to school. I know I shouldn’t feel this, but it’s as if a great load is lifted from my shoulders each time I see him off. I feel somehow liberated.”
 
“I’m not surprised,” said the friend. “And you mustn’t reproach yourself. Your son is a particularly unpleasant child—I’ve always thought so.”
 
This verdict on Oedipus was shared by almost all his contemporaries at school. When Berthea had advertised in the school association magazine for “recollections—no matter how frank—of the schooldays of Oedipus Snark, MP,” she had been astonished by the unanimity of opinion.
 
“I remember Oedipus Snark quite well,” wrote one of her informants. “He was the one we all disliked intensely. I’m sorry to have to tell you this, as I gather that you’re his mother, but we really couldn’t stand the sight of him. What on earth possessed you to have him?”
 
And there was this from another: “Can you give me his current address? I promise I won’t pass it on to anybody. I just want to know—for my own purposes.”
 
Of course, Berthea did not pass on her son’s address to that particular correspondent. She did not want Oedipus to meet any physical misfortune; she wanted him simply to be exposed, to be made to confront his shortcomings, to accept responsibility. And was there anything wrong with that? she wondered. Does it make me any the less of a mother for wanting to see justice done?
 
She had thought long and hard about what it was to be a mother. And from that, inspired by the article she read about disproof of maternity, the idea came to her that there had been a fairly long pause between the point at which Oedipus was taken from her in the maternity ward and the moment he was returned to her bedside. It was, she remembered, at least an hour, and during that time, as a nurse informed her, another three babies had been born.
 
“We’ve been worked off our feet, Mrs. Snark,” said the nurse. “Four babies in two hours! All of them boys. A population explosion, that’s what it is.” Berthea now thought: four boys, all lying in those tiny cots they put newborn babies in; physically indistinguishable, at that age, one from the other; identified only by a little plastic bracelet which could so easily slip off, be picked up and put on the wrong baby. Surely it could happen. Or was that just wishful thinking?

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

1. Booklist, in a starred review of this novel, stated “McCall Smith is by turns hilarious at capturing foibles and meditative about the huge role chance and the plots of others play in our lives.” Do you agree with this assessment of A Conspiracy of Friends? What role does chance and the plots of others have in this novel?

2. This novel, as did the first two in the Corduroy Mansions series, first appeared as a chapter a day in the British newspaper The Telegraph. Does the flow differ in this serial novel than in his more traditional novels (like those in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series)? Does it change your reading experience knowing that it was written to be read as a chapter a day?

3. What do you predict will happen in the next volume? Will William and Marcia be together? Will Caroline and Ronald? Hugh and Barbara? What will happen with Oedipus and Terrence and their relationships with Berthea?

4. To what does the title refer? And how is this novel about friendships? Friendship between old friends, new friends, males and females, with animals. Discuss them all.

5. Most of Alexander McCall Smith’s novels are filled with stories, poetry, and literary references. This novel mentions William Butler Yeats and Irish Murdoch, a children’s book about a dog, a graduate thesis, and more. What do you think the author is saying about the importance of stories, books and poetry in our lives?

6. How is Irish Murdoch crucial to the plot of A Conspiracy of Friends? If you’ve read Murdoch, why do you think the author references her over other 20th century authors?

7. What is the importance of and relevance of metaphors in A Conspiracy of Friends?

8. Is William the main character of the novel? He seems to have the most philosophical musings. Or is it Freddie de la Hay?

9. With which character do you most identify? Why?

10. Why does Caroline lie to James? Do you think her lie in this case should be forgiven? How often do you think the average person fibs in a week? What would you have done in Caroline’s predicament? Do we have a moral obligation to lie or tell the truth at times?

11. Why is Oedipus such a “flawed character” that even his own mother doesn’t like him? Is she likeable and believable as his biographer?

12. Discuss Berthea’s relationship with the men in her life, with both her brother and son.

13. Why does Barbara change her mind about Hugh? Does the story Hugh shares reveal traits of his she didn’t previously know he had? Does the story trigger something in Barbara and unearth self-revelations and make her more self-aware?

14.

How does losing Freddie de la Hay and Maggie’s confession drive William to Marcia? Do you think his feelings at the end of the novel are genuine and he’ll learn to love and appreciate her?

15. What does Eddie learn about himself through meeting with and working with Cosmo Bartonette?

16. Do you have any superstitions like Barbara Ragg has? Why do you continue practicing or believing in them?

17. Do you agree with William in believing that most great works of art and beauty stem from religion or faith?

18. What do you think the author is saying about appreciating the small things in life and imposing a sense of purpose to everything we do? Do you believe, as William, and perhaps the author, that everything that happens is a small miracle?

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 12 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(6)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

(3)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(2)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 3, 2012

    The charm of the characters and the witty observations about the

    The charm of the characters and the witty observations about the way people live combine to make it a very enjoyable read. I certainly hope that we will have more books in this series. The resolutions of some of the tenants' stories make me fear that Smith tied it all up so well that A Conspiracy of Friends may be the conclusion.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 25, 2012

    another fun romp

    Another fun romp with the residents of Corduroy Mansion! I enjoy the easy going series. Just makes you happy to be acquainted with these characters.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 16, 2012

    I have read all three of the books in this series and absolutely

    I have read all three of the books in this series and absolutely love them. The separate plots keep me interested and entertained and, as an animal lover, I'm always glad to see Freddie de la Hay in action.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2012

    Love the Corduroy Mansion Stories

    Each one is as good as the last. And nobody can pull off dry British humor like Alexander McCAll Smith.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2013

    OKAY,BUT NOT AS GOOD AS 1 & 2

    Got a little far fetched at the end. Too much "deus ex machina" in what happened to Snark. Otherwise 4 stars. First two books get 5.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2012

    I love this book

    I love this book

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 8, 2014

    I did not enjoy this book as much as the first two. The first h

    I did not enjoy this book as much as the first two. The first half slogs along and then there are a rapid succession of plot twists that defy belief. It is as though A. M. Smith wants to cross genres and turn this series into science fiction! I join another commentator in my hopes that this fantastical ending was not a quick wrap-up for what I was hoping would be a long and successful series.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 26, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)