This was a rough weekend, with a bit of food poisoning (apparently - I'm still in pain but it wasn't the worst I've been through) and a lot of busy work emptying a dresser to send back with my eldest to his apartment, all of which ate into reading time. Even The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs, a tiny book at a mere 128 light-hearted pages, took me three evenings of reading because I never sat down to read for any lengthy stretch. So, I'll do my best to review it but I'm not sure I was "all there" while I was reading.
The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs is my second Alexander McCall Smith book. Oddly, it took me a long time to get around to reading the book that launched Mr. Smith's career as a novelist because our library has his books filed by "McCall," not "Smith" in spite of the fact that the names are not hyphenated. Eye-rolling moment. But, okay, I did read The Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and enjoyed it immensely. However, I'm one of those readers who require variety and I couldn't get into the second in that series. In fact, I still don't really feel like reading another Precious Ramotswe book.
I chose the third in the Professor Dr. von Igelfeld series, rather than the first, merely because a review of this particular title by one of the members of my book group--who has similar taste to mine--was extremely positive. Plus, it passed my so-called Flip Test, in which I flip through a book and read various passages. If I want to keep reading, the book passes. If I read a portion in the middle of a book and it bores me to the point that I find myself looking away, forget it. It may sound strange, but the concept works. Often, the books I end up disliking are the ones I don't bother to flip through or those which have flunked the flip test (but, inexplicably, then I bought or checked them out, anyway - I'm not necessarily always logical).
So, you may wonder if it was troublesome beginning with the third in a series of books. The answer is "no". I am not, in general, disturbed by reading a series out of order but I've done so enough to realize that some authors handle turning each series book into a novel that can stand on its own better than others. Mr. Smith did fine. While there was no preamble to explain the characters and their past experiences, I thought Professor Dr. von Igelfeld and his cohorts were easily and quickly distinguishable. There was only one instance in which I confused two of von Igelfeld's associates and needed to flip back to remind myself who was whom. That's good; two points for clarity.
The story itself is not entirely about the unfortunate incident during which von Igelfeld is mistaken for a veterinarian with dire results to the sausage dog of the book's title, but about von Igelfeld himself. A rather arrogant professor of languages who travels extensively, von Igelfeld is a bit of a doofus in spite of his intelligence - one of those really smart stupid people you hear about: loads of brains, little common sense. So, Professor Dr. von Igelfeld gets himself into a lot of tangles. What I love about this character is his ability to admit that he's screwed up. He may be haughty, in general, but the character knows how to humble himself when he's done something horribly wrong; and, therein lies his charm.
I will definitely go back and read the first two in the series and, therefore, I'd rate the book a 4/5 - one point off for slight annoyance when von Igelfeld looks down his nose at everyone else; I do find his superiority a bit off-putting, at times. But, otherwise the book is engaging and fun. Von Igelfeld is a character who is deliberately over-the-top and who is prone to some very seriously ridiculous, smile-inducing blunders. The writing is consistent and Sausage Dogs would have been a quick read had I been all there, rather than taking brief and, often, interrupted reading breaks. My only other complaint would have to be the lack of translations for the occasional comment in Latin, Portuguese or some other language. Not all of us are linguists, after all, and I found that severe stomach pain and the urge to look something up on Babel Fish simply don't mesh.
4/5 - entertaining, smile-inducing, well-written and with only the occasional minor irritation; not conducive to Babel translations on a bad day.
I have no idea what I'm going to read next. Last week, I spent a few days working on one of those someone-shot-at-the-president conspiracy theory fictions; I picked up Sausage Dogs when the many over-the-top evil government characters in high places became tiresome. In fact, I can't even remember the name of the book. And, I'm not going to look. I think, instead, I'll lie down and hope I can sleep off a tummy ache.