By Alexander McCall Smith

Pantheon, $24.95, 290 pages

The Dog Who Came in From the Cold is the perfect blend of interweaving story and cleverly crafted characters. This latest installment in the Corduroy Mansions series by Alexander McCall Smith follows Pimlico terrier Freddie de la Hay in his adventures, this time with MI6 infiltrating a Russian spy ring. Other characters include a literary agent representing a Yeti, a caterer that cooks for Icelandic poets, and New Age believers attempting to occupy a Queen Anne mansion in London.

This initial delve into the rich world of McCall Smith’s was eye-opening. With internationally known works like Portuguese Irregular Verbs and The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, McCall Smith knows his way around a story. The best part of this book is how the author seamlessly blends the stories of so many characters. The writing style makes the switch from character to character feel like going between conversations at a party. Each time a character is revisited, the reader is able to jump right back in as if he or she had never left.

Unfortunately, the greatest strength of this book is also its greatest weakness. By including so many fascinating characters, it creates a strain on the reader to keep up with everyone in the story. Too many characters are introduced too early in the story, creating confusion in the reader who is still getting to know characters from 20 pages ago. (Although perhaps reading the books in the series in the order written would help with this confusion.) But ultimately, The Dog Who Came in From the Cold is a satisfying collection of stories that entertains with every page.

Reviewed by Andrew Keyser