What's New in Books?

Alexander writes four or five new books every year. This page gives you an 'at-a-glance' view of the newest releases.

Titles in this series

The Joy and Light Bus Company

ISBN: 9780593315736
Publisher: Pantheon (Penguin Random House)
Publication Date: 16 November 2021

 

The 22nd instalment in the beloved No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series.

 

Mma Ramotswe knows she is very lucky indeed. She has a loving family, good friends and a thriving business doing what she enjoys most: helping people. But the latest mystery she is called upon to solve is distinctly trickier than it initially appears, and, of course, there’s plenty to handle in her personal life between Charlie and his new bride and Mma Makutsi and her talking shoes.

In the end, Mma Ramotswe’s patience and common-sense will win out, and, without a doubt, all will be the better for it.

The Man with the Silver Saab

ISBN: 9780593316108
Publisher: Pantheon (Penguin Random House)
Publication Date: 20 July 2021

 

The Man with Silver Saab is the third book in the Detective Varg series.

Perplexing, unfathomable, and perhaps unimportant, the cases that Malmo’s Department of Sensitive Crimes take on will test them to their limits.

Life – and crime – is not always as it seems for Ulf Varg and the other fearless detectives in Malmo’s Department of Sensitive Crimes. There are always surprising new cases to take on, and the latest batch is no exception. And that’s not to mention Ulf’s struggle to contain his feelings for his colleague Anna Bengsdotter. All in all, things are distinctly difficult in Malmo, and it seems up to Ulf and the Department to set them right.

Reviews

‘We read him first for his charm; he is a reassuring writer. He is also a serious one. He doesn’t preach, but he is concerned with how we should live, how we should treat others. The nature and importance of friendship and love are two of the themes which recur in all his work… a writer of some real importance’
The Scotsman
‘McCall Smith’s detective series set in Sweden, which he calls Scandi Blanc, is a brighter version of the unrelenting bleakness and violence of the Scandi Noir genre… in the cheerful setting of bright and sunny Swedish summers’
The Herald
‘Another lovely humorous dept of sensitive crimes instalment. So many lovely little incidents and some great witticisms’
Goodreads.com 4 star review
‘brilliantly pitched and packed with humour…with witty, intelligent writing, sophisticated characterisation, as well as McCall Smith’s effortless storytelling ability, it makes you think and makes you laugh. A fantastic summer read’
Scottish Field
‘The novel’s pleasures lie in Ulf’s philosophical asides and comments on how to live a good, just life… Smith’s gift is to use crime as a structure for writing about morality and making it such a pleasure to read. This is a refreshing change from the standard Scandinavian noir fare’
Publisher’s Weekly, Starred review
‘a bunch of immensely likeable characters with wonderful quirks and interesting names, who solve unusual crimes which require a delicate touch in Malmo Sweden. Throw in some gentle humour and a few plots twists. What’s not to love?
Goodreads.com 4 Star Review
‘The right balance of humour, character development , plot, and a bit of philosophy on life… a delightful read’
Goodreads.com 5 Star Review
‘Ulf Varg does not disappoint in this instalment. So glad he is moving on with his life too’
Goodreads.com 5 Star Review
‘Bestselling author Alexander McCall Smith has taken the noir out Swedish crime fiction in his latest series starring the warm-hearted detective Ulf Varg’
ABC Radio interview

The Geometry of Holding Hands (paperback)

ISBN: 9780593081235
Publisher: Anchor Books (Penguin Random House)
Publication Date: 15 June 2021

 

Coming Soon: The Geometry of Holding Hands, the thirteenth book in the Isabel Dalhousie series, available in paperback in June.

When Isabel Dalhousie and her husband Jamie book a table at an expensive Edinburgh restaurant, she finds herself battling with her conscience. Lately, there has been a lull in work for the Review of Applied Ethics, and the care of their young sons, Charlie and Magnus, is often undertaken by their housekeeper Grace. Is Isabel deserving of such a luxurious dinner?

But Isabel holds herself to impossible moral standards. Not so, the parents of one of Jamie’s students, who have no qualms about ensuring their son’s place in the school orchestra, despite his mediocre talent. In the restaurant, Isabel witnesses a row between local businessmen; another reminder that thoughtless ambition is too often second nature to others.

Compelled to intervene in the aftermath, Isabel’s sense of integrity is observed by a fellow diner, Iain Melrose, who seeks out her help. He must decide which of his remaining relatives should one day inherit his estate. Isabel, he believes, would make a just executor of his will.

While she deliberates, another troubling situation arises with her niece, Cat, whose relationship with the unlikeable Leo is causing her to behave recklessly, putting Isabel in a very difficult position.

Faced with such weighty decisions, can Isabel balance compassion and integrity to make the right choice for all, and to protect those she holds dear to her heart? Read The Geometry of Holding Hands to find out.

Reviews

‘McCall Smith lifts the spirits with his delightful latest offering.’
The Sunday Post
‘The ethicist’s best in more than a decade’
Kirkus Review

Tiny Tales: Stories of Romance, Ambition, Kindness, and Happiness

ISBN: 9780593316009
Publisher: Pantheon (Penguin Random House)
Publication Date: 4 May 2021

 

Tiny Tales – a unique collaboration from bestselling author Alexander McCall Smith and illustrator Iain McIntosh. Perfect short stories that dance across your mind just as an amuse bouche dances on your tongue.

Stories do not have to be long. In the space of a couple of sentences – or even a page or two – we may see the human heart exposed in a way that is more powerful than occurs in many much longer narratives.

In Tiny Tales Alexander McCall Smith explores romance, ambition, kindness and happiness in thirty short stories that range in length from the short to the minuscule. The settings are as diverse as the characters – Scotland, England, Australia, the United States – combining to create a rich and surprising tableau. An Australian pope? A persuasive cosmetic surgeon? The world’s laziest cat? A group of students living together and getting romantically entangled? All human and animal life is here – in miniature.

These stories are inspired and accompanied by the thirty magnificent strip Tiny Tales created by McCall Smith and illustrated by the brilliant Iain McIntosh – each cartoon a little gem of observation.

Tiny Tales strips appeared every week in the Financial Timefor a four month period.

Very short stories are not the exclusive preserve of writers. Illustrators are also adept at the form, and it was for this reason that I approached the well-known Scottish illustrator Iain McIntosh to see whether he would be interested in embarking on a series of extremely brief stories. The idea was that Iain would draw four panels in which a whole story would be illustrated with the minimum of text.

 

Reviews

‘Tiny windows on the world… deft and funny and smart’
The Financial Times
‘easy to read, charismatic and charming. It convincingly demonstrates that length is by no means essential for a captivating read… the variety and individuality of each tale pays testament to McCall Smith’s creative abilities. *****’
Scottish Field
‘The man who came up with Botswana’s first lady detective (The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency) has done it again, this time in miniature. Tiny Tales is a selection of short, diverse stories and cartoon strips that ripple with humour. Perfect for those without the time, patience or inclination to pick up a novel. It will have readers – especially new ones – coming back for more’
Sunday Post
‘It is remarkably clever how, in just a few pages, he [Alexander McCall Smith] can create a complete little world… The tales aptly demonstrate the brilliance of the writer’s imagination… the book also contains an extra treat, something almost worth buying the book for alone. Interspersed throughout the text are little graphic stories, called amuse-bouches drawn by A.McCS’s friend, Iain McIntosh… Each set of four witty images has a punch line and they are satisfying in much the same way as A A.McCS’s text – and together make Tiny Tales a little treasure’
PATRICIA CLEVELAND PECK, THE CULTURAL VOYAGER
‘His talent is concentrated down to its purest form… intoxicating stuff’
The Scotsman

Your Inner Hedgehog

ISBN: 9780593312674
Publisher: Anchor Books (Penguin Random House)
Publication Date: 6 April 2021

Your Inner Hedgehog is the latest entertaining and hilarious Professor Dr Dr Moritz-Maria Von Igelfeld novel. Our hopelessly out-of-touch hero is forced to confront uppity librarians, the rector of the university and a possible hostile takeover, all while trying to remain studiously above it all.

Professor Dr Dr Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld and his colleagues at the University of Regensburg’s Institute of Romance Philology pride themselves on their unwavering commitment to intellectual excellence. They know it is their job to protect a certain civilized approach to the scholarly arts. So when a new deputy librarian, Dr. Hilda Schreiber-Ziegler, threatens to drag them all down a path of progressive inclusivity, they are determined to stop her in the name of scholarship – even if that requires von Igelfeld to make the noble sacrifice of running for director of the Institute. Alas, politics is never easy, and in order to put his best foot forward, von Igelfeld will be required to take up a visiting fellowship at Oxford and cultivate the attentions of a rather effusive young American scholar. Still, von Igelfeld has always heeded the clarion call of duty, especially when it comes with a larger office.

Reviews

‘Delightfully silly … [von Igelfeld] is a literary Mr. Magoo’
The Washington Post
‘Professor Moritz-Maria von Igelfield is a hilarious creation’
Daily Express
‘No one pricks pomposity and self-importance as hilariously as Alexander McCall Smith. Whether it is self-congratulatory assistant lady detectives, officious Scandinavian policemen or snobbish residents of Edinburgh’s New Town, he captures absurdities with a gentle lampooning that we laugh at while perhaps also recognising such tendencies in ourselves… A gentle and witty delight at human frailties… Your Inner Hedgehog might be just the antidote we need to the constant real world cacophony of hyperbolic argument and mud-slinging that seems to surround every debate on every issue.’ 
The Scotsman
‘The latest zany instalment, Your Inner Hedgehog, could not be better timed to lift our lockdown blues’
Sunday Post
‘With his tongue once again firmly in cheek, McCall Smith manages to poke fun at the hallowed halls of academia… there are some truly ridiculous incidents to add to the fun… [a] highly entertaining read’
Goodreads.com
‘Professor Dr. Dr. Moritz-Maria Von Igelfeld is back and thwarting stressful university politics, snooty librarians, and a possible takeover of the department’
Crimereads.com
‘We all know the range and breath of Alexander’s writing, not all of it comic but much of it so comic it keeps us afloat through dark times. [He] has an insatiable appetite for travel and new experiences and new vistas whether they are in Africa, or India or indeed Australia but also that kind of never-satisfied curiosity which is what a writer requires, one of the reasons why there is this extraordinary profusion of characters and places and set-ups… Your Inner Hedgehog is all about puncturing pomposity, he writes as he speaks and he speaks as he writes’
James Naughtie, 5x15 Stories

The Talented Mr Varg (paperback)

ISBN: 9780593081228
Publisher: Anchor Books (Penguin Random House)
Publication Date: 2 March 2021

 

Coming Soon: The Talented Mr Varg, available in paperback March 2021.

Spring is coming slowly to Sweden – though not quite as slowly as Detective Ulf Varg’s promised promotion at the Department of Sensitive Crimes. For Varg, referred by his psychoanalyst to group therapy at Malmö’s Wholeness Centre, life now seems mostly a circle of self-examination, something which may or may not be useful when it comes to the nature of his profession and the particularly sensitive cases that have recently come to light.

All in a day’s work for Detective Varg, except that one of his new investigations involves fellow detective Anna; it will require every ounce of self-discipline he has in order to remain professional. The other, more curious case is centred around internationally successful novelist Nils Personn-Cederström. According to his girlfriend, Cederström is being blackmailed – but by whom and for what reason?

Accompanied by his irritating but kindly colleague Blomquist, Varg begins his enquiries and soon the answers fall neatly into place. Nothing and no one is ever that simple, however, and not for the first time he learns as much about his own emotional and moral landscape as he does about the motives of others. Now Varg must make a possibly life-changing decision. Will he choose his own happiness over that of his heart’s desire?

Reviews

‘Reading the novel feels like a form of meditation . . . There is much to enjoy’
The Scotsman
‘Highly enjoyable . . . [Alexander McCall Smith] has a supreme talent for sketching truly likeable characters. His novels are full of human quirks and the bizarre minutiae of everyday life.’
The Independent

Pianos and Flowers: Brief Encounters of the Romantic Kind

ISBN: 9781846975240
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication Date: 19 January 2021

Pianos and Flowers is a remarkable gift of engaging short stories imagined by one the world’s greatest story writers.

Earlier this year, Alexander McCall Smith met the Scottish editor of The Sunday Times and agreed to write a series of short stories which would run in the paper. The Sunday Times opened up their archive of photographs and Alexander selected anonymous, black and white pictures, imagined the story behind the scenes depicted, and created delightfully playful stories to enchant the reader. These stories appeared in the paper but since then, Alexander has reshaped them, added new stories and they have now grown into a powerful, hugely entertaining collection of tales of love and romance.

When I was asked by the The Sunday Times to write a number of short stories for the newspaper, I suggested that I should select photographs from their extensive photographic archive, and create stories based on what I imagined the pictures depicted. Six of the stories were published in the paper – a few of them are included here, but the rest are new. We do not know, of course, who the people in these photographs were, nor what they were up to. They were almost certainly not doing what I say they are, but that is the joy of looking at photographs in this way: from the tiniest visual clue we can create a whole hinterland of experience – of love, of hope, of simply being human.

Reviews

‘My most treasured possession is my bookcase filled with every book you have written.   I have read them all and they have greatly contributed to the peace and tranquility in my life.’
Reader letter
‘No other author can consistently bring joy to me like Alexander McCall Smith. His books are gentle and quiet. Blink and you’ll miss some deeper observation, some quiet humour. I always return to his books as a balm for my soul. *****’  
Goodreads.com
‘A lovely little book from a master wordsmith. Using photos of anonymous people from a newspaper archive, Smith tells stories that by the end you half believe may be true. Under 200 pages, this book is a fantastic read that lets you suspend your belief and forget the hassles of 2019. In this case, a picture really does tell 1000 words.*****’
Goodreads.com

How to Raise an Elephant

ISBN: 9781524749361
Publisher: Pantheon
Publication Date: 24 November 2020

Catch up on the latest from Mma Ramotswe, Mma Makutsi and other favourites in How to Raise an Elephant, the twenty-first volume of Alexander McCall Smith’s beloved No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, but can Mma Ramotswe and the rest of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency team come together to raise a pipsqueak pachyderm? We may find out in this novel. We may not. Who can say?

As the temperature rises in Gaborone, Precious Ramotswe, founder of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, wonders whether the heat could be the reason that business is particularly slow. Luckily, a slower pace in life is her natural preference, unlike her colleague Mma Makutsi, who is alert to every passing observation and inclined to making snap decisions. With fewer cases to handle, Precious has time to contemplate her new neighbours, a couple who, by the sounds of it, have a rather volatile relationship . . .

But then a distant cousin of Mma Ramotswe’s comes to the agency with a plea for help, and the ladies decide to pursue the issue together. Armed with Mma Ramotswe’s circumspection and Mma Makutsi’s sharp eye, they proceed with confidence and open hearts. What, after all, could be more straightforward than a family matter?

Meanwhile, their colleague Charlie is behaving oddly, borrowing Mma Ramotswe’s van and returning it in an unusual condition. Digging a little deeper, the explanation is both strange and extraordinary, and takes Charlie, along with Mma Ramotswe’s husband, Mr J. L. B. Matekoni, on a hair-raising night-time expedition.

In the end, Precious is reminded of the need to view a picture from every angle, to accept the imperfections in people and situations, and then find a solution – preferably over a delicious slice of her friend Mma Potokwani’s fruit cake.

Reviews

‘The book that uplifts me is not just one book but the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series set in Botswana by Scottish lawyer and novelist Alexander McCall Smith. Evil never triumphs in these modest stories which unfold in almost indolent fashion. Detective Ramotswe takes the reader on a ramble through Botswana’s byroads and the changing times in her beloved country when its age-old gracious courtesies and kindliness are under threat from the incursions of boorishness and disrespect. These are great reads when you just want a book that makes you feel happy’ 
Dr Mary McAleese, former President of Ireland, writing in Good Housekeeping magazine
‘An absolutely charming addition to a much loved series. There is something so uplifting about these novels, Alexander McCall Smith has the ability to embrace the intimate in order to open far-reaching views’
Lovereading.co.uk
‘One of the great series successes of the last few decades’
Stig Abell, Times Radio
‘Nothing and no one is beyond Ramotswe. With humour enlivening every page, this series is unlike any other detective fiction you’ve read. Before you know it, you’ll be in love with Gaborone and Botswana’
Africa.com - Give your mind the escape it needs
‘A series of books that evokes joy in the readers’
Simon Mayo, Scala Radio

Excerpt

Precious Ramotswe, owner and only begetter of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency – established to deal with the problems of ladies, and others – looked across her office towards the desk occupied by Grace Makutsi, former secretary and distinguished graduate – with ninety-seven per cent in the final examinations – of the Botswana Secretarial College. The sun was streaming through the high window behind Mma Ramotswe’s desk, sending a…

Precious Ramotswe, owner and only begetter of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency – established to deal with the problems of ladies, and others – looked across her office towards the desk occupied by Grace Makutsi, former secretary and distinguished graduate – with ninety-seven per cent in the final examinations – of the Botswana Secretarial College. The sun was streaming through the high window behind Mma Ramotswe’s desk, sending a narrow butter-yellow beam to illuminate small particles of floating dust, just perceptible, feather-light, moving up and down, sometimes sliding sideways in obedience to the invisible currents in the room. But for the most part the air was still – it being that sort of day, sluggish and non-committal. The sort of day on which something might happen, but was more likely not to.

It was not unusual for Mma Ramotswe to look up and see Mma Makutsi staring back at her; and the same thing might be said for Mma Makutsi, who would suddenly lift her gaze from the papers in front of her and notice Mma Ramotswe watching her thoughtfully. Neither minded this – indeed, both were used to it, and when either of them was out of the office for whatever reason, the other would find that she missed seeing her colleague there at her desk when she looked up. This was particularly true for Mma Makutsi, for whom Mma Ramotswe was a reassuring presence every bit as significant, every bit as reassuring, as the great rock dome of Kgale Hill on the outskirts of town, or the deep waters of the Limpopo River, just a few hours off to the east, or the sandhills of the Kalahari over to the west. These were all geographical facts, just as Mma Ramotswe herself seemed to be a geographical fact. She was simply there – as predictable and as constant as any of these things. And her voice was as familiar and as loved as the voice of the doves inhabiting the acacia tree behind Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors; indeed, she would not have been surprised had Mma Ramotswe suddenly started to coo, just as those doves did. Mma Makutsi could not imagine Botswana without those doves, and she could not imagine it without Mma Ramotswe; if she were not there, then it would be just any other country; with her it was something special – it was Mma Ramotswe’s place, a place bathed in the warmth of her presence as effectively as the sun blesses the land each morning with its warming rays.

A Promise of Ankles

ISBN: 9780593313282
Publisher: Anchor Books (Penguin Random House)
Publication Date: 8 December 2020
The fourteenth book in the 44 Scotland Street series

 

To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose; it is summer in Scotland Street (as it always is) and for the habitués of Edinburgh’s favourite street some extraordinary adventures lie in waiting. Join Bertie, Irene, Stuart and all the rest for another 44 Scotland Street tale.

Take a few minutes to relax and savour the affairs of the world in microcosm, teeming with life’s loves and challenges. Little dramas writ large by the master chronicler of modern life and manners in the latest book in the 44 Scotland Street series, now the world’s longest-running serial novel.