turns out to be short stories rather than a novel. I can think of a few short stories which have stuck in my head for years: The Machine Stops, The Signalman, Mr Loveday’s Little Outing, that terrible (literally) story by Katherine Mansfield about the gloves, the one by Graham Greene about a man whose father is killed when a pig falls on his head. These and I suppose a few more are exceptions in the forgettable hundreds I must have read. My point is that you have to be very good indeed to write successful, memorable short stories. This probably explains why it took me so long to read Heavenly Date and other Flirtations by Alexander McCall Smith.
The stories are set in various parts of the world - Switzerland, Italy, Australia – and all deal with a slightly strange relationship which is just ever so slightly naughty. Hmm. If I want to read about dangerous liaisons I can turn to Anna Karenina or Madame Bovary, thank you. So I wonder why Mr McCall Smith wrote and published these? Although entertaining enough they lack the groundedness of the books set in Edinburgh or Botswana. I don’t want to be one of those miserable (to the author) readers who want the writer to turn out the same book over and over again but in The No 1 Ladies Detective series he has created something special. The heat, the light, the wide open spaces, even the smells of Africa have been made accessible to a huge audience, while the slow pace of the narrative reflects the pace of life in Gaborone. The stories in Heavenly Date are less individual, although the title story is rather magical.