Corduroy Mansions
by Alexander McCall Smith
(Pantheon Books, $24.95) ISBN 978-0-307-37908-5
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Corduroy Mansions, originally serialized in the Daily Telegraph, introduces Alexander McCall Smith fans to a new group of quirky characters living in a Pimlico apartment building nicknamed Corduroy Mansions. 

William French is a wine merchant whose adult son, Eddie, still lives with him, making it hard for William to find and start a new relationship. Eddie thinks he should stay home and take care of dear-old-dad as old age approaches (from which William is years away).  Young Jenny Hedge lives in the  Mansion and works for the all too appropriately named Oedipus Snark, a nasty Lib Dem MP; much of his disposition must come from his psychoanalytical mother who would prefer a different, if any, son to Oedipus, though she is hard at work on his biography. 

There is also Dee Binder, who works at the local apothecary shop and is convinced one of her co-workers must cleanse all the toxins from his body, by whatever means necessary. Add into the mix Freddie de la Haye, a vegetarian canine who has the unique ability to fasten his own seatbelt, and a few other odds and ends neighbors coming and going and you have the makings for another one of McCall Smith’s slice of life series. 

Much like his 44 Scotland Street series (which is set in Scotland), Corduroy Mansions explores a small microcosm of Pimlico, a London neighborhood.  McCall Smith makes wry observations about human nature and uses hyperbole to illustrate his observations.  Told in a series of vignettes rather than a traditional linear plotline, it is the characters and their situations in Corduroy Mansions that typify McCall Smith’s work and make him a master of human observation.                                                  

--Jennifer Monahan Winberry


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