While I have enjoyed all of McCall Smiths books up to now (the Ladies Detective Agency, 44 Scotland St, etc), this is the first one I not only did not on enjoy, but was unable to finish. Some of you will note in the book's description, "He ends up operating on a friend's dachshund to dramatic and unfortunate effect." While the scene was no doubt intended to add to the comedic irony of the protagonist's situation, and only a fictional dog was operated upon (yes, it is only a book, and fiction at that), this particular scene was so distasteful and distressing to us that both my husband and myself no longer wished to continue reading. McCall Smith has a creative mind and wicked sense of humor which he puts to good use, but if you are a lover of "sausage dogs" or other animals, you may not find this to your taste.
Not for the overly sensitive - but one of the funniest books I've read in a long time. I laughed until I cried, but then I have a very macabre sense of humor. It ends abrubtly, and is in many parts completely absurd - but great fun nonetheless. I found it much funnier than Portugese Irregular Verbs. Note: These are nothing like his #1 Ladies series.
From an avid reader of the ladies' detective agency and von Igelfeld series: I found this book extremely disappointing. I am a researcher myself and have lived in Germany for significant periods so I enjoyed the genre and McCall-Smith's exploitation of stereotypes of both academia and Germany. This book was absurd as usual but this time it was overdone to a point where it did not work. I did not even bother to finish the book.
If you laughed at Monty Python and the Holy Grail's "It's only a flesh wound" episode, then you will probably not be too offended by this book. It delves into the academic jealousy and manuvering that is on par with Machiavelli. It contains fine examples of thinking on your feet and bluffing. It even has a happy ending, although as a Dachshund owner, I don't think that I could give up my doggie so easily.