Seventy-eight more slices of low-key comedy, originally serialized in the Daily Telegraph, concerning the denizens of Pimlico’s Corduroy Mansions and their lovers, friends and unavoidable relatives.
The outlook isn’t good for wine merchant William French and his caterer friend Marcia, who keeps coming out with too many nitwit remarks for him to take seriously, or for his downstairs neighbor Caroline and her fellow art student James, a sensitive, sympathetic mysophobe who’s not into physical expressions of attachment. But literary agent Barbara Ragg’s new romance with Hugh Macpherson defangs her long-standing feud with her partner Rupert Porter, exacerbated now by a new problem: the agency’s mild, delusional client Errol Greatorex, who’s mistakenly been encouraged to serve as amanuensis for the Abominable Snowman’s autobiography. And psychotherapist Berthea Snark, still gathering material for her tell-all biography of her son Oedipus, the most loathsome Liberal Democrat in Parliament, never seems to have a nice day, especially now that her brother, clueless mystic Terence Moongrove, has fallen in with a pair of sharpies determined to fleece him. But Caroline’s herbalist flatmate Dee has had a notable idea that may just take off—marketing gingko bilboa as a remedy for failing sudoku fans—and William’s faithful Pimlico terrier, Freddie de la Hay, vaults to a leading role when he’s recruited by Sebastian Duck of MI6 to spy on neighborhood Russian blackmailer Anatoly Podgornin. As in his series debut (Corduroy Mansions, 2009), Smith places exactly the same emphasis on the cloak-and-dagger histrionics of espionage; the pursuit of the yeti through Fortnum & Mason; and the question of who stood whom up for dinner, Caroline or James. The results will charm fans who thought 44 Scotland Street (2005) and its sequels should have been set in London.
Like Henry James, Smith clearly believes that relations stop nowhere; unlike James, he seems determined to trace every single one of them to its vanishing point.