The Dog Who Came in from the Cold (Corduroy Mansions Series #2)

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Overview

CORDUROY MANSIONS - Book 2

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 second installment in Alexander McCall Smith’s newest beloved series follows the further adventures of Freddie de la ...

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The Dog Who Came in from the Cold (Corduroy Mansions Series #2)

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Overview

CORDUROY MANSIONS - Book 2

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 second installment in Alexander McCall Smith’s newest beloved series follows the further adventures of Freddie de la Hay, Pimlico terrier, and the wonderfully motley crew of his fellow residents in the elegantly crumbling London mansion block, Corduroy Mansions.
 
A pair of New Age operators has determined that Terence Moongrove’s estate is the ideal location for their Centre for Cosmological Studies. Literary agent Barbara Ragg has decided to represent a man who is writing a book about his time “hanging out” with the abominable snowman. And our small, furry, endlessly surprising canine hero, Freddie de la Hay, has been recruited by MI6 to infiltrate a Russian spy ring. Needless to say, the other denizens of Corduroy Mansions have issues of their own. But all of them will be addressed with the wit, charm, and insight into the foibles of the human condition that have become the hallmark of this truly peerless storyteller.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for the Cordury Mansions series
 
“[Here is a] wonderful world of realistic characters getting up to real mischief in McCall Smith’s velvety prose and vivid imagination.”
    —USA Today

“McCall Smith is a writer of such fond, heartfelt geniality that . . . fans will be grateful that the series has just begun.”
    —Entertainment Weekly
 
“[McCall Smith] cooks up a delicious story that seems part Restoration comedy and part Victorian novel, tossed with a dash of mystery and a dollop of satire. . . . Comfortable, easy, homey.”
    —The Washington Post
 
“A nice little confectionery.” —The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
“McCall Smith is the P.G. Wodehouse of our time, and we should be grateful for his prolificacy.”
    —Richmond Times-Dispatch
 
“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 a world that often appears heartless.”
    —The Daily Telegraph (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

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

 “Very agreeable. . . . McCall Smith has . . . a rare and enviable gift.”
    —The Scotsman

Publishers Weekly
Smith's diverting second Corduroy Mansions novel (after Corduroy Mansions) focuses mainly on the misadventures of London wine merchant William French. When Angelica Brockelbank, an attractive acquaintance of William's he hasn't seen in years, unexpectedly shows up at his door in Pimlico, he's surprised to learn that, instead of running a bookshop, Angelica now works for Britain's MI6. He's further dumbfounded when an intelligence colleague of Angelica's asks him to eavesdrop on some Russian spies with his Pimlico terrier, Freddie de la Hay. The complications will elicit no more than smiles, though a passage toward the end about a notorious Margaret Thatcher quotation will raise a genuine laugh. Somewhat anemic characters, a silly subplot involving the autobiography of a yeti, and a lack of trenchant observations about human nature may disappoint those expecting the high quality of Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. (June)
Kirkus Reviews

Seventy-eight more slices of low-key comedy, originally serialized in theDaily Telegraph,concerning the denizens of Pimlico's Corduroy Mansions and their lovers, friends and unavoidable relatives.

The outlook isn't good for wine merchant William French and his caterer friend Marcia, who keeps coming out with too many nitwit remarks for him to take seriously, or for his downstairs neighbor Caroline and her fellow art student James, a sensitive, sympathetic mysophobe who's not into physical expressions of attachment. But literary agent Barbara Ragg's new romance with Hugh Macpherson defangs her long-standing feud with her partner Rupert Porter, exacerbated now by a new problem: the agency's mild, delusional client Errol Greatorex, who's mistakenly been encouraged to serve as amanuensis for the Abominable Snowman's autobiography. And psychotherapist Berthea Snark, still gathering material for her tell-all biography of her son Oedipus, the most loathsome Liberal Democrat in Parliament, never seems to have a nice day, especially now that her brother, clueless mystic Terence Moongrove, has fallen in with a pair of sharpies determined to fleece him. But Caroline's herbalist flatmate Dee has had a notable idea that may just take off—marketing gingko bilboa as a remedy for failing sudoku fans—and William's faithful Pimlico terrier, Freddie de la Hay, vaults to a leading role when he's recruited by Sebastian Duck of MI6 to spy on neighborhood Russian blackmailer Anatoly Podgornin. As in his series debut (Corduroy Mansions,2009), Smith places exactly the same emphasis on the cloak-and-dagger histrionics of espionage; the pursuit of the yeti through Fortnum & Mason; and the question of who stood whom up for dinner, Caroline or James. The results will charm fans who thought44 Scotland Street(2005) and its sequels should have been set in London.

Like Henry James, Smith clearly believes that relations stop nowhere; unlike James, he seems determined to trace every single one of them to its vanishing point.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307739445
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/29/2012
  • Series: Corduroy Mansions Series , #2
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 268,998
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the beloved bestseling No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, the 44 Scotland Street series, and the Corduroy Mansions series. He is also the author of numerous children’s books. He is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh and has served on many national and international organizations concerned with bioethics. He was born in what is now known as Zimbabwe and taught law at the University of Botswana. He lives in Scotland. Visit his website 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.

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Read an Excerpt

1. What Our Furniture Says About Us
 
William French, wine merchant, Master of Wine (failed), somewhere in his early fifties (hardly noticeably, particularly in the right light), loyal subscriber to Rural Living (although he lived quite happily in central London), longtime supporter of several good causes (he was a kind man at heart, with a strong sense of fairness), widower, dog-owner, and much else besides; the same William French looked about his flat in Corduroy Mansions, as anybody might survey his or her flat in a moment of self-assessment, of stock­taking.
 
There was a lot wrong with it, he decided, just as he felt there was a lot that was not quite right with his life in general. Sorting out one’s flat, though, is often easier than sorting out oneself, and there is a great deal to be said for first getting one’s flat in order before attempt­ing the same thing with one’s life. Perhaps there was an adage for this—a pithy Latin expression akin to mens sana in corpore sano. Which made him think . . . Everybody knew that particular expres­sion, of course; everybody, that is, except William’s twenty-eight-­year-old son, Eddie, who had once rendered it within his father’s hearing as “men’s saunas lead to a healthy body.” William had been about to laugh at this ingenious translation, redolent, as it was, of the cod Latin he had found so achingly funny as a twelve-year-old boy: Caesar adsum iam forte, Pompey ad erat. Pompey sic in omnibus, Caesar sic in at. Caesar had some jam for tea, Pompey had a rat . . . and so on. But then he realised that Eddie was serious.
 
The discovery that Eddie had no knowledge of Latin had depressed him. He knew that the overwhelming majority of people had no Latin and did not feel the lack of it. The problem with Eddie, though, was that not only did he not have Latin, he had virtually nothing else either: no mathematics worthy of the name, no geogra­phy beyond a knowledge of the location of various London pubs, no knowledge of biology or any of the other natural sciences, no grasp of history. When it came to making an inventory of what Eddie knew, there was really very little to list.
 
He put his son out of his mind and returned to thinking about the proposition mens sana in corpore sano. Was there an equivalent, he wondered, to express the connection between an ordered flat and an ordered life? Vita ordinata in domo ordinata? It sounded all right, he felt—indeed, it sounded rather impressive—but he found himself feeling a little bit unsure about the Latin. Domus was femi­nine, was it not? But was it not one of those fourth declension nouns where there was an alternative ablative form—domu rather than domo? William was not certain, and so he put that out of his mind too.
 
He walked slowly about his flat, moving from room to room, thinking of what would be necessary to reform it completely. Starting in the drawing room, he looked at the large oriental carpet that dom­inated the centre of the room. It was said that some such carpets gained in value as the years went past, but he could not see this hap­pening to his red Baluch carpet, which was beginning to look dis­tinctly tattered at the edges. Then there was the furniture, and here there was no doubt that the chairs, if once they had been fashion­able, no longer were. If there was furniture that spoke of its decade, then these chairs positively shouted the seventies, a period in which it was generally agreed design lost its way. It would all, he thought, have to be got rid of and replaced with the sort of furniture that he saw advertised in the weekend magazines of the newspapers. Time­less elegance was the claim made on behalf of such furniture, and timeless elegance, William considered, was exactly what he needed.
 
He would give his own furniture to one of those organisations that collect it and pass it on to people who have no furniture of their own and no money to buy any. The thought of this process gave him a feeling of warmth. He could just imagine somebody in a less favoured part of London waiting with anticipation as a completely free consignment of surplus furniture—in this case William’s—was unloaded. He pictured a person who had previously sat on the floor now sitting comfortably on this Corduroy Mansions armchair, not noticing the large stain on the cushion of which Eddie had denied all knowledge, though it was definitely his responsibility. It was a most unpleasant stain, that one, and William had never enquired as to exactly what it was. Yet he had noticed that Marcia, when she had lived with him, had studiously avoided ever sitting on that chair. And who could blame her?
 
Our furniture, he reflected, says so much about us, and our tastes—perhaps more than we like to acknowledge. We may not like a piece of furniture now, but the awkward fact remains that we once were a person who liked it. And unlike clothes, which are jettisoned with passing fashion, furniture has a habit of staying with us, remind­ing us of tasteless stages of our lives. William looked at his settee; he had bought it at a furniture shop off the Tottenham Court Road—he remembered that much—but he would never buy something like that now. And certainly not in that colour. Did they still make mauve furniture? he wondered.
 
He moved on to the kitchen. William liked his kitchen, and often sat there on summer evenings, looking out of the window over the rooftops behind Corduroy Mansions, watching the sun sink over west London. Sometimes, if conditions were right, the dying sun would touch the edge of the clouds with gold, making for a striking contrast with the sky beyond, as sharply delineated as in a Maxfield Parrish painting. He would sit there and think about nothing in par­ticular, vaguely grateful for the display that nature was providing but also conscious of the fact that there was not enough beauty in his life and that it would be nice to have more.
 
Now, surveying his kitchen from the doorway, he saw not the out­side vista but the inside—the cork floor that needed replacing, the scratched surfaces that surely fostered an ecosystem in which whole legions, entire divisions of Pseudomonas were encamped. Best not to think about that, nor about the bacteria which undoubtedly romped around the faithful body of his dog, Freddie de la Hay, who was sit­ting on the kitchen floor, looking up at his master in mute adoration, and wondering, perhaps, what the problem was.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Reading Group Guide

1. The opening pages of The Dog Who Came in from the Cold find William French reflecting on furniture. “Our furniture,” he ruminates, “says so much about us—perhaps more than we would like to acknowledge” [p.5]. Clothes are easier to change with passing fashions than furniture. Do you have furniture than reminds you of a particular stage in your life, perhaps more than you would wish?

2. On a different floor of Corduroy Mansions, Caroline is weighing her options. “I just don’t know what to do,” she confided in her mother… “There are these two men, you see, and I really don’t know which one to choose. But maybe I should choose neither” [p. 22]. What do you make of Caroline’s quandary? Have you ever been forced to chose between two people you love?

3. Caroline’s mother’s generation would never have seen choosing to remain alone as an option. What has changed in society to make this a valid alternative?

4. Not far away at the Ragg Porter Literary Agency, the tensions between Barbara and Rupert over Barbara’s flat are likened to the hostilities between Ecuador and Peru: “There had never been open hostilities . . . just enough to keep the matter alive but not sufficient to lead to actual conflict” [p. 33]. Have you ever had to work with someone in these conditions? Knowing Rupert and his wife covet Barbara’s flat, why do you think she would risk giving them a key?

5. Barbara is still trying to work on Autobiography of a Yeti. What do you think of Erroll Greatorex’s story? Do you believe that just because you don’t/can’t see something that means it doesn’t exist? If Rupert and Gloria are so convinced that the idea of a yeti is ridiculous, why do they continue to track it across London?

6. While Caroline and her newly-acquainted neighbor are having tea, Berthea theorizes that liberal social change has taken away people’s ability to belong, causing a sense of purposelessness [p. 43-44]. By creating nations where there are small communities, combining churches and streamlining dialects to form one single language, society has “destroyed the familiar . . . weakened the notion of order . . . People used to have a sense of what their lives meant because they belonged to things.”  Discuss how you feel about this idea.

7. William’s friend and former flatmate Marcia loves to cook—especially for men. “I know I should be all independent and self-sufficient and so on, but that’s just not me . . . [W]hat if I’m fulfilled by doing things for other people?” she asks a friend [p. 63]. He friend calls her “inauthentic” in return. Which side do you take in this exchange? Is it possible to be old-fashioned in a politically correct society?

8. Meanwhile, our canine hero, Freddie de la Hay, has been recruited by the MI6 (with the help of Angelica Brockelbank and Sebastian Duck). Why does William let them take Freddie? Discuss the importance of serving your country versus keeping your loved ones safe.

9. On a smaller, albeit equally important level (in the eyes of Freddie de la Hay), what do people owe to their pets? Companionship? Care? Kindness? Are we their owners? Protectors? Friends? [See pp. 134-135.]

10. Berthea Snark is quite straightforward when it comes to dealing with her feelings for her family. She continues to write the not-very-favorable biography of her son, Oedipus, while feeling sorry for her brother—“Dear Terence! What a disaster area he is!” [p. 94]. Although she appears to love Terence, she is condescending toward his “magical thinking” [p. 96]. Discuss Berthea’s relationship with Terence. Does she show him respect? What could Berthea learn from Terence?

11. Caroline’s life becomes more difficult when she finds herself jealous that Dee went to dinner with James. Throughout the book, the way Caroline thinks of herself (and the way people view her) takes on many different tones. How does it change when James describes the way he feels toward her? What about when Caroline speaks with her flatmate, Jo? And Caroline’s discussion with her own mother? How does seeing yourself through another’s eyes help you reflect upon your own life?

12. When she meets Claire and Rog, Berthea feels the need to defend her brother against these two people that would scheme against him to steal his home. While Berthea would normally consider herself a rational person, her plan to dress Lennie Marchbanks as the Green Man seems a bit over-the-top, especially when she lies to Terence to cover up her scheme. How does this change your opinion of her? Is she protecting her brother or her childhood home? How do you think Terence would react if he found out?

13. The most overarching theme in this book seems to be about home: Barbara finds a home with Hugh, Berthea helps Terence save his house, William brings Freddie de la Hay home, even Rupert gets his flat. How much does home have to do with where a person lives versus where a person comes from? What about where a person belongs?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 10, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    The latest Corduroy Mansions satire is a lighthearted romp that

    Pimlico, London wine merchant William French is shocked when an old acquaintance Angelica Brockelbank, whom he has not seen in years, arrives at his home Corduroy Mansions. She shocks him further when she explains she no longer manages a bookstore, but instead works for MI6. Her colleague needs a recruit to spy on the Russian spy ring. However, they just want French to escort his terrier, Freddie de la Hay to and from the job.

    Other residents of Corduroy Mansions are dealing with issues too. New Age gurus believe that the estate of Terence Moongrove is the cosmological center. Literary agent Barbara Ragg is pushing publication of her book Autobiography of a Yeti that she insists was told to her by the title character.

    The latest Corduroy Mansions satire is a lighthearted romp that lampoons the memoir/biography book publishing, skewers the homeland security espionage agents, and mocks the New Age crowd who has been around long enough to become the Old New Age crowd. While doing this through the foibles of the Corduroy Mansions' residents, Alexander McCall Smith turns Freddie into the hero as he lampoons the personification of animals without using an anthropomorphist trait. Although not as profound as The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, 44 Scotland Street or the Isabel Dalhousie series, nonetheless Mr. Smith provides an engaging slice of life in London.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 29, 2013

    Another great Smith book

    I love the books by Alexander McCall Smith. Corduroy Mansions is fun, light reading. Since I have a terrier, I find Freddie delightful! All the characters are fun and quirky.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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