Alexander McCall Smith is great fun to read. His fans, of which there are legions, can choose from several different series to which he’s frequently adding: The Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency series (with the impressive Mma Ramotswe at the heart of the books), the 44 Scotland Street series (with the memorable characters of that location, including young Bertie Pollock and his horrid mother, Irene), the Sunday Philosophy Club series (starring Isabel Dalhousie), the Corduroy Mansions series (featuring the most memorable terrier in fiction, Freddy de la Hay). As if that weren’t enough, he’s also written a number of stand-alone books with equally quirky characters and gentle humor, including his latest, My Italian Bulldozer.
Writer and protagonist Paul Stewart has a problem: he’s supposed to be finishing this cookbook but he can’t seem to get focused on the project. He gets the brilliant idea of getting away from it all, and going to the lovely small Italian town of Montalcino. There, far from the stresses and distractions of city life, he’s sure he will be able to concentrate and finally finish the book.
However, simplicity is not his fate. He arrives at the airport, ready to pick up his rental car and head to the town, and discovers to his horror that there is no car reserved for him, his reservation having somehow disappeared into the ether. And whereas in a large airport he might be able to find another car to take him to town, this is not that kind of airport, and Paul is afraid he’s going to be stuck in the airport (hardly an escape from stress and hardly a good place to concentrate on writing a cookbook) forever. A helpful stranger offers him an alternative: a bulldozer. A BULLDOZER? Paul doesn’t have a lot of options here, so he agrees to drive the bulldozer to his new temporary home, and thus begins a series of near disasters and misadventures as he attempts to make his way through the Italian countryside on this not very practical conveyance.
Prepare for laughs and a new view of traveling and making the best of your circumstances, whatever those circumstances may turn out to be. McCall Smith is a past master at finding the humor and the humanity wherever he turns his sights, so come along for the ride.