Monday, May 28, 2012

The Forgotten Affairs of Youth

In most mystery books or thrillers, the plot races along like frothy white water, and the reader is like a feverish paddler trying to keep up with the pace.  Alexander McCall Smith's books are more like a gently flowing river, with the reader comfortably seated on a raft, floating along peacefully.   The plot often meanders into a small backwater, where you pause for a moment before heading down the river again.

Smith is best known for his series about Precious Ramotswe, the warm and cuddly head of Botswana's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.  In these books, Ramotswe often digresses to deliver a homily on life in Botswana, and the characteristics that make its people so delightful.

The pace is even slower in The Forgotten Affairs of Youth, the first of Smith's Isabel Dalhousie novels I've read.  Whereas Previous Ramotswe philosophizes as an avocation, philosophy is Isabel Dalhousie's profession.  She is the editor of The Review of Applied Ethics, a lightly paid position she is able to hold because she lives off an inheritance.

Frankly, there were simply too many philosophical musings in this book for my taste.  It is a lovely gentle book but I craved a little more plot movement.  Certainly the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series is much more engaging.

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