Monday, August 07, 2006

Sausage Dogs by Smith and a Rough Weekend

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.


  1. Oooh, I hope you're feeling better soon!

    I have the first 4 books in the Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, but have yet to read them. I tried the first a couple of years ago and couldn't get interested. I'll get to them eventually.

    I like your new rating scale in the sidebar. I need to put mine up, too.

  2. Thanks, Lesley. I'm trying to ignore the achy stomach. LOL

    I hope you like the series when you get to it. I do that - buy an entire series of books hoping that I'll love them all (sometimes that's a big mistake).

    About the sidebar . . . I've been admiring Nat's (at "In Spring it is the Dawn" - I think that's where I linked up to your blog) and decided to do similar. Thanks, glad you like it! I've always found it hard to rate books but it helps to create a very specific ratings system if you're as flaky as I am. LOL

    Incidentally, my dad was born and raised in Lincoln and my parents met and married there. I love Lincoln, although I no longer have a reason to visit!

  3. I honestly don't remember buying any of the books. I may have acquired them via book boxes (traveling box of books for trade amongst book buddies). My hubby wound up reading all of them, so they haven't languished on my shelves completely ignored. Nice to have a husband who not only loves to read, but reads quite a bit of the same books as I do.

    I've had a rating scale for years, but it's gone through several revisions since I first started keeping a reading journal back in '97. It goes back and forth between 1-5 or 1-10. What can I say? I'm fickle.

    We love Lincoln, but are ready for a change (warmer winters and cooler summers). Been here since 1992. Prior to that, San Diego, northern California and Canada (born in Ottaw). We're thinking the Pacific Northwest or even western Canada. Time will tell.

  4. I can spell. Honest. Just terrible at proofreading. OTTAWA. Sheesh.

  5. Les, I hope you are feeling better. Food poisoning can be horrible. I too like the book rating in the sidebar.

    I spent 6 years in Lincoln when my dad was stationed there with the Army. Attended Hawthorne, Millard Lefler and Lincoln High. Is Uni swimming pool still there?

    I had never heard of this series written by Smith, but I did enjoy the first few books in the Detective Agency series, but I'm not reading any more. The Sausage Dog sounds interesting.

  6. Les,

    I've just revised my rating system from 1-10 to 1-5, this year, thanks to a comment I read somewhere about the human brain and classification (1-5 is supposedly best). I keep changing the wording, though. Fickle? Yeah, me too. I knew you meant Ottawa! And, I do know those book boxes. They're fun, but I've opted out recently because I can acquire books so cheaply in our library sale. It's the best thing about our library. :)


    It was me that got the food poisoning. It's still getting me, but the hubby insisted we go to the Greek place (40 miles away) for dinner, since this is our anniversary. What the heck. I can work on digestion without pain another day. LOL Sausage Dogs is much different from the Mma Ramotswe books - kind of farcical. I liked it enough that I snatched the other two at the library, today. We'll see if I can stand to read 2 in a row, though - usually, I require variety and get annoyed with series books if I read them too close together.

  7. About the sidebar . . . I've been admiring Nat's (at "In Spring it is the Dawn"

    Thanks Nancy! It's so far down now and I wondered if anyone ever noticed it! :P

  8. Hi Nat!

    Yep, I noticed your sidebar quite a while ago and have thought I needed one, myself. It just took me a while to figure out how to go about the process of inserting my own version!! I'm still a novice when it comes to fiddling with HTML, but I'm slowly learning - and I should add that I'd be *nowhere* if you hadn't helped me out with the blogroll!!!


Thank you for visiting my blog! I use comment moderation because apparently my blog is a spam magnet. Don't worry. If you're not a robot, your comment will eventually show up and I will respond, with a few exceptions. If a comment smacks of advertising, contains a dubious link or is offensive, it will be deleted. I love to hear from real people! I'm a really chatty gal and I love your comments!