From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
McCall Smith excels at creating comic characters: Bruce, the scented-haired narcissist of the Scotland Street series, for example, or Grace Makutsi, who scored the highest at the Botswana Secretarial College exams, of No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. McCall Smith's least well-known series, Portuguese Irregular Verbs, is also filled with comic characters, all academics of a particularly stripe German philologists who can trace word origins back thousands of years but, many times, cannot parse the simple meaning of what's going on. The hero (to himself, at least) is Professor Dr. von Igelfeld, whose quest for recognition and whose utter haplessness in dealing with the real world form the comic spine of the novels. In the fourth in the series, von Igelfeld's greatest rival has been short-listed for an academic prize that von Igelfeld believes should have gone to him. McCall Smith has the same gift that John Mortimer has in making boring conversations hilarious the atmosphere in the Institute of Romance Philology's coffee room is very like the one-upmanship and backbiting in Horace Rumpole's chambers. Academia can be a hoot, and this series proves it.--Fletcher, Connie Copyright 2010 Booklist