Two different crime series show the seamy or not so-seamy of life in other places. The latest Alexander McCall Smith confirms that this writer is turning into a parody of himself. The detective aspects of his novels have decreased as the series has worn on, whilst the domestic dramas have flourished. Increasingly, I feel like one of Catherine Cookson’s devotees. Not only am I finding myself immersed in the cloying family dramas of Mma Makutsi and Mma Ramotswe, but I eagerly await each new N0.1 Detective Agency Novel; hoping that it will be an improvement on the last. However, my faith is rewarded with disappointment.
In the latest Tea Time for the Traditionally Built the usual cliches exist: the references to Botswana’s achievements (with very little mention of AIDS or poverty), the well worn humour; the references to the fecklessness of the apprentices, the loyalty of her husband, the secretarial college etc, etc. This is a series that has worn out its welcome and one longs for a drug-crazed gang of Zulus to lay waste to the good and oh-so-boring inhabitants of Zebra Drive.
Iceland has had the traditional Scandinavian reputation of being a civilised, prosperous and safe place. Recently economic disturbances have damaged one of these reputed merits and the Icelander, Arnaldur Indridason has skilfully demolished another.
I’ve just started Jar City his first novel containing Erlendur a morose detective in Reykyavík. Like all the best policemen he has a messed up domestic life, few friends, an unsympathetic boss and solitary habits (in his case reading sagas involving people lost in the Arctic wasteland). Gruesome finds under floorboards, shaven-headed jailbirds and drug addicted daughters form part of the sordid underbelly. Indridason does for Iceland what Slumdog Millionaire does for the Indian Tourist Board.