Why do the sequels of some authors fall flat and others produce multiple instalments in series that just go on and on successfully? I was at a Young Adult genre workshop once where it was remarked, “Every child need a series at some point.” Series just encourage reading, for children and for adults. It’s the comfort of not having to “work at” learning the context of the novel and of meeting the characters again, because they have become like old friends.
To a certain extent, writing a series must be a bit taxing for the author since some background must be given in each new book, just in case someone has not read any of the previous ones. McCall Smith handles this seamlessly, slipping in interesting anecdotes and necessary history about a character as he goes along, not necessarily in the tiresome way some do, with lengthy explanations clustered into the opening chapters.
For fans of the No. 1 Ladies Detective series, this is the 15th. Someone opens a new cafe in town, someone gets fired, Mma Makutsi’s shoes start talking again, and the author produces a rather interesting rant towards the end of the book on the importance of matrons. A matron is a senior nurse overseeing a department, often in a hospital. Smith shared with us, when we listened to him speak in London last month, that he thought what is needed in this country is the return of the matron, and many British heads in the audience were bobbing up and down in agreement. Perhaps budget cuts changed all that, but I recently saw an announcement that the British Government was bringing back “modern matrons”, perhaps in response to recent complaints of dirty ineffective hospitals where patients do not receive proper care.
Always a bit philosophical and political, always entertaining, Alexander McCall Smith enjoys writing his characters as much as we enjoy reading them. And always necessary, with the plethora of books he has written, here is a link to his website:
Alexander McCall Smith Website