Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

By the time you finish reading this sentence, Alexander McCall Smith has probably finished writing another book. McCall Smith, of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency and the 44 Scotland Street series fame, averages one addition to each of his four series per year (including the Isabel Dalhousie philosophical novels and the Detective Varg mysteries), along with one or two stand-alones. His latest is a double collection of short stories. The first collection contains five stories and centers, often comically, on dedicated, accidental, conflicted, or remorseful spies. The second collection, with four stories, revolves around how revenge has a way of boomeranging back on the perpetrator. Part of the section called “The Private Life of Spies” owes its inspiration, McCall Smith tells us, to a history title called Myths and Legends of the Second World War, by James Hayward. The first story here riffs on one such legend, that of German spies parachuting into England disguised as nuns. Another story, “Syphax and Omar,” set in 1932 Algeria, in which two spies incessantly tail each other, will remind some readers of the Spy vs. Spy strips in Mad Magazine. The “Revenge” section’s stories, which include one about an envy-inspiring gangster and another about backbiting actors, have nicely twisty plots and offer wryly wise reasons not to seek revenge. Massively entertaining and thought-provoking.