Lis Carey Review: A Song of Comfortable Chairs

A Song of Comfortable Chairs (No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency #23), by Alexander McCall Smith (author), Lisette Lecat (narrator)
Recorded Books, ISBN 9781705047989, September 2022

Review by Lis Carey: There are signs of trouble in Mma Ramotswe’s normally peaceful world. Mr. J.L.B.Matekoni made the disturbing suggestion that, with equality between the sexes now, there’s no reason for her detective agency to be called the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. Mma Makutsi has ordered new stationery for the agency, with the letterhead redone in a way that could suggest to some that Mma Makutsi has somewhat higher qualifications than Mma Ramotswe. She also appears to be ordering a new, larger desk.

But Mma Makutsi is her friend, and when she learns of the troubles Grace Makutsi’s husband, Phuti Radiphuti, owner of the Double Comfort Furniture Store, is having business troubles due to a new competitor undercutting him, she can’t help but want to help. Aside from the threat to his business, Phuti is disturbed by the low quality and lack of real comfort offered by the new competitor’s furniture, especially chairs. And, the undercutting is remarkably efficient. They announce lower prices than Phuti’s right before Phuti’s new prices are announced.

There’s also the small matter of an old friend of Mma Makutsi’s, another woman from Bobonong named Patience, who after some major challenges in her life, is now living, along with her 14-year-old son, with a good man who treats her very well. Unfortunately, her son resents him and is extremely rude and disrespectful to him. It’s extreme enough that it’s putting real strain on Patience’s relationship with the man, to the point where he’s suggested that this can’t go on. He’ll have to ask her to leave if things don’t improve.

Patience has asked Mma Makutsi for help, and she and Mma Ramotswe come up with a plan, that Phuti agrees to.

Meanwhile, Charlie, the part-time mechanic in Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni’s garage, and part-time trainee detective, is pushing for more responsibility and recognition of his growing detective skills. He manages to insert himself into a case Mma Ramotswe doesn’t think his help is needed in.

We see both the conflict and the solid friendship between Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi, the conflict and the growing understanding between Mma Makutsi and Charlie, Mma Ramotswe’s own insecurities as well as her wisdom and flexibility, and, along with the strong relationship between Mma Ramotswe and Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, whe see the strong relationship between Mma Makutsi and Phuti Radaphuti. The whole story reflects the values of respect and caring for each other and the community they’re a part of.

We have no murders here, no high-speed chases, and the worst people in the story are the undercutting furniture business people, and Violet Sephoto, Mma Makutsi’s long-time nemesis now intensely disliked by everyone who knows her–everyone who knows Grace Makutsi, and possibly everyone who knows Violet Sephoto. It’s a story, as all the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective series books are, of people who care about doing the right thing, and making the world around them a little better.

I really enjoy this series.

I bought this audiobook.

Lis Carey Review: The Strange Case of the Moderate Extremists

The Strange Case of the Moderate Extremists (Detective Varg #0.8), by Alexander McCall Smith
Penguin Random House, ISBN 9781984898524, February 2019

Review by Lis Carey: Detective Ulf Varg is the head of the Department of Sensitive Crimes for the Malmö police. It’s important to understand that this is not the Special Victims Unit. The cases they get are…strange. Odd. Possibly a bit weird, sometimes.

The case that comes to them, one fine morning, involves a champion pedigreed cat, a Burmese, belonging to a breeder of Oriental cats. The breeder, with this particular cat, attended a cat show. The cat was bred to a champion male, and the entire expected litter was pre-sold.

When the kittens were born, they were clearly not purebred Burmese, and the breeder has a huge problem.

One aspect of this is a rumor that her champion Burmese female wasn’t really purebred. A story then emerges that a person, never seen clearly enough to be identified, snuck in a big, rangy, street tom, and put him into the Burmese female’s crate. Nature took its course, and the mixed-breed litter was the result. Sabotage, rather than fraud.

Ulf and his partner, Anna, have to figure out the truth.

That’s their official case. Ulf’s brother, Bjorn, is the leader of a political party called the Moderate Extremists. They have great ambitions, but they’re polling at about 1%, as are their main rivals, the Extreme Moderates. Ulf and Bjorn don’t see eye to eye on politics, at all, and maintain their closeness as brothers by not discussing politics, ever. So it’s a real surprise when Bjorn calls Ulf and asks for help with a political problem. Someone is leaking sensitive party information to their rivals, the Extreme Moderates. This could shake Bjorn’s position as the head of the Moderate Extremists.

Very, very reluctantly, Ulf agrees to do a quiet, private investigation.

If you’ve read McCall Smith’s other mysteries, you know hard-hitting crime investigation isn’t the point, here. It’s good people, some more good than others, trying to solve problems and make the world a little better. There are interesting and likable characters here, each with their own problems, and basic decency. It’s enjoyable.

No, I have no idea how McCall Smith’s depiction of at least part of Sweden’s political world will look to Swedes. My provisional assumption is that the specific parties mentioned are detached enough from reality to not cause any great offense,

I bought this story.

Crime Fiction Awards News Roundup


Walter Mosley is the 2023 winner of The Crime Writers’ Association Diamond Dagger Award.

The Diamond Dagger recognizes authors whose crime writing careers have been marked by sustained excellence, and who have made a significant contribution to the genre, and is regarded as one of the foremost awards hosted in Britain for crime writing.

Walter Mosley said: “At the beginning of my writing career I was fortunate enough to be awarded the CWA’s New Blood Dagger, otherwise called the John Creasey Award. That was the highest point of my experience as a first book author.  Since then, I have picked up other honours along the way but the only award that comes near the Diamond Dagger is the MWA’s Grand Master nod.  These two together make the apex of a career that I never expected.”


Mystery writer Alexander McCall Smith was given the 2022 Saltire Society Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to Scottish literature..


The shortlist for the 2022 Joffe Books Prize for Crime Writers of Colour has been announced.

  • The Labelled Bones by FQ Yeoh
  • Everyone Is Going To Know by Kingsley Pearson
  • The Smiling Mandarin by Mai Le Dinh
  • Red Obsession by Rose Lorimer
  • Savage Territory by Sam Genever


The Barry Awards Nominations 2023 have been released by Deadly Pleasures magazine.

Best Mystery or Crime Novel

  • The Accomplice, Steve Cavanagh (Orion)
  • Desert Star, Michael Connelly (Little,Brown)
  • The Dark Flood, Deon Meyer (Atlantic Monthly)
  • Shifty’s Boys, Chris Offutt (Grove Press)
  • Secret Identity, Alex Segura (Flatiron Books)
  • City On Fire, Don Winslow (William Morrow)

Best First Mystery or Crime Novel

  • Before You Knew My Name, Jacqueline Bublitz (Atria/EmilyBestler)
  • Don’t Know Tough, Eli Cranor (Soho Crime)
  • Shutter, Ramona Emerson (Soho Crime)
  • The Maid, Nita Prose (Ballantine)
  • Blood Sugar, Sascha Rothchild (Putnam)
  • Dirt Creek, Hayley Scrivenor (Flatiron)

Best Thriller

  • In The Blood, Jack Carr (Atria/Emily Bester)
  • Winter Work, Dan Fesperman (Knopf)
  • Sierra Six, Mark Greaney (Berkley)
  • Bad Actors, Mick Herron (Soho Crime)
  • Killers Of A Certain Age, Deanna Raybourn (Berkley)
  • Goering’s Gold, Richard O’Rawe (Melville House)


The winners of the Deutscher Krimipreis 2022 have been announced. (Translations by Cora Buhlert.) 


First place: Die Stunde der Hyänen (The Hour of the Hyaenas) by Johannes Groschupf.

Second Place: Einmal noch sterben (Die once more) by Oliver Bottini

Third place: Davenport 160×90 by Sybille Ruge


First place: Die Aosawa Morde (The Aosawa Murders) by Riku Onda, translated by Nora Bartels

Second place: Die Knochenleser (The Bone Readers) by Jacob Ross, translated by Karin Diemerling

Third place: Wie die einarmige Schwester das Haus fegt (How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House) by Cherie Jones, translated by Karen Gerwig

[Thanks to Cora Buhlert for these stories.]

2021 Strand Critics Awards Nominees

Recognizing excellence in the field of mystery fiction and publishing, the 2021 Strand Critics Awards are judged by selected group of book critics and journalists, this year including talent from NPR, USA Today, the LA Times, and Wall Street Journal.

The nominees are:


  • Snow by John Banville (Hanover Square Press)
  • You Again by Debra Jo Immergut (Ecco)
  • Trouble Is What I Do by Walter Mosley (Mulholland Books)
  • The Missing American by Kwei Quartey (Soho Crime)
  • A Song for the Dark Times by Ian Rankin (Little, Brown and Company)
  • Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay (William Morrow)
  • Confessions on the 7:45 by Lisa Unger (Park Row)


  • Amnesty by Aravind Adiga (Scribner)
  • Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam (Ecco)
  • When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole (William Morrow)
  • Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline (William Morrow)
  • A Burning by Megha Majumdar (Knopf)
  • A Certain Hunger by Chelsea G. Summers (The Unnamed Press)
  • Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas (Custom House)


  • Josh Stanton, CEO of Blackstone Publishing


  • Stephen King
  • Joyce Carol Oates
  • Alexander McCall Smith

The Strand Critics Awards ceremony will be held virtually in early September.

[Thanks to Cora Buhlert for the story.]