The Dog Who Came in from the Cold (Corduroy Mansions Series #2)

The Dog Who Came in from the Cold (Corduroy Mansions Series #2)

by Alexander McCall Smith


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In the Corduroy Mansions series of novels, set in London’s hip Pimlico neighborhood, we meet a cast of charming eccentrics, including perhaps the world’s most clever terrier, who make their home in a handsome, though slightly dilapidated, apartment block. 

The second installment in Alexander McCall Smith’s newest beloved series follows the further adventures of Freddie de la Hay, Pimlico terrier, and the wonderfully motley crew of his fellow residents in the elegantly crumbling London mansion block, Corduroy Mansions.
A pair of New Age operators has determined that Terence Moongrove’s estate is the ideal location for their Centre for Cosmological Studies. Literary agent Barbara Ragg has decided to represent a man who is writing a book about his time “hanging out” with the abominable snowman. And our small, furry, endlessly surprising canine hero, Freddie de la Hay, has been recruited by MI6 to infiltrate a Russian spy ring. Needless to say, the other denizens of Corduroy Mansions have issues of their own. But all of them will be addressed with the wit, charm, and insight into the foibles of the human condition that have become the hallmark of this truly peerless storyteller.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307739445
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/29/2012
Series: Corduroy Mansions Series , #2
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 362,920
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the beloved bestseling No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, the 44 Scotland Street series, and the Corduroy Mansions series. He is also the author of numerous children’s books. He is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh and has served on many national and international organizations concerned with bioethics. He was born in what is now known as Zimbabwe and taught law at the University of Botswana. He lives in Scotland. Visit his website at


Edinburgh, Scotland

Date of Birth:

August 24, 1948

Place of Birth:


Read an Excerpt

1. What Our Furniture Says About Us
William French, wine merchant, Master of Wine (failed), somewhere in his early fifties (hardly noticeably, particularly in the right light), loyal subscriber to Rural Living (although he lived quite happily in central London), longtime supporter of several good causes (he was a kind man at heart, with a strong sense of fairness), widower, dog-owner, and much else besides; the same William French looked about his flat in Corduroy Mansions, as anybody might survey his or her flat in a moment of self-assessment, of stock­taking.
There was a lot wrong with it, he decided, just as he felt there was a lot that was not quite right with his life in general. Sorting out one’s flat, though, is often easier than sorting out oneself, and there is a great deal to be said for first getting one’s flat in order before attempt­ing the same thing with one’s life. Perhaps there was an adage for this—a pithy Latin expression akin to mens sana in corpore sano. Which made him think . . . Everybody knew that particular expres­sion, of course; everybody, that is, except William’s twenty-eight-­year-old son, Eddie, who had once rendered it within his father’s hearing as “men’s saunas lead to a healthy body.” William had been about to laugh at this ingenious translation, redolent, as it was, of the cod Latin he had found so achingly funny as a twelve-year-old boy: Caesar adsum iam forte, Pompey ad erat. Pompey sic in omnibus, Caesar sic in at. Caesar had some jam for tea, Pompey had a rat . . . and so on. But then he realised that Eddie was serious.
The discovery that Eddie had no knowledge of Latin had depressed him. He knew that the overwhelming majority of people had no Latin and did not feel the lack of it. The problem with Eddie, though, was that not only did he not have Latin, he had virtually nothing else either: no mathematics worthy of the name, no geogra­phy beyond a knowledge of the location of various London pubs, no knowledge of biology or any of the other natural sciences, no grasp of history. When it came to making an inventory of what Eddie knew, there was really very little to list.
He put his son out of his mind and returned to thinking about the proposition mens sana in corpore sano. Was there an equivalent, he wondered, to express the connection between an ordered flat and an ordered life? Vita ordinata in domo ordinata? It sounded all right, he felt—indeed, it sounded rather impressive—but he found himself feeling a little bit unsure about the Latin. Domus was femi­nine, was it not? But was it not one of those fourth declension nouns where there was an alternative ablative form—domu rather than domo? William was not certain, and so he put that out of his mind too.
He walked slowly about his flat, moving from room to room, thinking of what would be necessary to reform it completely. Starting in the drawing room, he looked at the large oriental carpet that dom­inated the centre of the room. It was said that some such carpets gained in value as the years went past, but he could not see this hap­pening to his red Baluch carpet, which was beginning to look dis­tinctly tattered at the edges. Then there was the furniture, and here there was no doubt that the chairs, if once they had been fashion­able, no longer were. If there was furniture that spoke of its decade, then these chairs positively shouted the seventies, a period in which it was generally agreed design lost its way. It would all, he thought, have to be got rid of and replaced with the sort of furniture that he saw advertised in the weekend magazines of the newspapers. Time­less elegance was the claim made on behalf of such furniture, and timeless elegance, William considered, was exactly what he needed.
He would give his own furniture to one of those organisations that collect it and pass it on to people who have no furniture of their own and no money to buy any. The thought of this process gave him a feeling of warmth. He could just imagine somebody in a less favoured part of London waiting with anticipation as a completely free consignment of surplus furniture—in this case William’s—was unloaded. He pictured a person who had previously sat on the floor now sitting comfortably on this Corduroy Mansions armchair, not noticing the large stain on the cushion of which Eddie had denied all knowledge, though it was definitely his responsibility. It was a most unpleasant stain, that one, and William had never enquired as to exactly what it was. Yet he had noticed that Marcia, when she had lived with him, had studiously avoided ever sitting on that chair. And who could blame her?
Our furniture, he reflected, says so much about us, and our tastes—perhaps more than we like to acknowledge. We may not like a piece of furniture now, but the awkward fact remains that we once were a person who liked it. And unlike clothes, which are jettisoned with passing fashion, furniture has a habit of staying with us, remind­ing us of tasteless stages of our lives. William looked at his settee; he had bought it at a furniture shop off the Tottenham Court Road—he remembered that much—but he would never buy something like that now. And certainly not in that colour. Did they still make mauve furniture? he wondered.
He moved on to the kitchen. William liked his kitchen, and often sat there on summer evenings, looking out of the window over the rooftops behind Corduroy Mansions, watching the sun sink over west London. Sometimes, if conditions were right, the dying sun would touch the edge of the clouds with gold, making for a striking contrast with the sky beyond, as sharply delineated as in a Maxfield Parrish painting. He would sit there and think about nothing in par­ticular, vaguely grateful for the display that nature was providing but also conscious of the fact that there was not enough beauty in his life and that it would be nice to have more.
Now, surveying his kitchen from the doorway, he saw not the out­side vista but the inside—the cork floor that needed replacing, the scratched surfaces that surely fostered an ecosystem in which whole legions, entire divisions of Pseudomonas were encamped. Best not to think about that, nor about the bacteria which undoubtedly romped around the faithful body of his dog, Freddie de la Hay, who was sit­ting on the kitchen floor, looking up at his master in mute adoration, and wondering, perhaps, what the problem was.

Reading Group Guide

The heartwarming and hilarious new installment in the Corduroy Mansions series presents the further adventures of Alexander McCall Smith’s newest beloved character: the Pimlico terrier Freddie de la Hay.

1. The opening pages of The Dog Who Came in from the Cold find William French reflecting on furniture. “Our furniture,” he ruminates, “says so much about us—perhaps more than we would like to acknowledge” [p.5]. Clothes are easier to change with passing fashions than furniture. Do you have furniture than reminds you of a particular stage in your life, perhaps more than you would wish?

2. On a different floor of Corduroy Mansions, Caroline is weighing her options. “I just don’t know what to do,” she confided in her mother… “There are these two men, you see, and I really don’t know which one to choose. But maybe I should choose neither” [p. 22]. What do you make of Caroline’s quandary? Have you ever been forced to chose between two people you love?

3. Caroline’s mother’s generation would never have seen choosing to remain alone as an option. What has changed in society to make this a valid alternative?

4. Not far away at the Ragg Porter Literary Agency, the tensions between Barbara and Rupert over Barbara’s flat are likened to the hostilities between Ecuador and Peru: “There had never been open hostilities . . . just enough to keep the matter alive but not sufficient to lead to actual conflict” [p. 33]. Have you ever had to work with someone in these conditions? Knowing Rupert and his wife covet Barbara’s flat, why do you think she would risk giving them a key?

5. Barbara is still trying to work on Autobiography of a Yeti. What do you think of Erroll Greatorex’s story? Do you believe that just because you don’t/can’t see something that means it doesn’t exist? If Rupert and Gloria are so convinced that the idea of a yeti is ridiculous, why do they continue to track it across London?

6. While Caroline and her newly-acquainted neighbor are having tea, Berthea theorizes that liberal social change has taken away people’s ability to belong, causing a sense of purposelessness [p. 43-44]. By creating nations where there are small communities, combining churches and streamlining dialects to form one single language, society has “destroyed the familiar . . . weakened the notion of order . . . People used to have a sense of what their lives meant because they belonged to things.”  Discuss how you feel about this idea.

7. William’s friend and former flatmate Marcia loves to cook—especially for men. “I know I should be all independent and self-sufficient and so on, but that’s just not me . . . [W]hat if I’m fulfilled by doing things for other people?” she asks a friend [p. 63]. He friend calls her “inauthentic” in return. Which side do you take in this exchange? Is it possible to be old-fashioned in a politically correct society?

8. Meanwhile, our canine hero, Freddie de la Hay, has been recruited by the MI6 (with the help of Angelica Brockelbank and Sebastian Duck). Why does William let them take Freddie? Discuss the importance of serving your country versus keeping your loved ones safe.

9. On a smaller, albeit equally important level (in the eyes of Freddie de la Hay), what do people owe to their pets? Companionship? Care? Kindness? Are we their owners? Protectors? Friends? [See pp. 134-135.]

10. Berthea Snark is quite straightforward when it comes to dealing with her feelings for her family. She continues to write the not-very-favorable biography of her son, Oedipus, while feeling sorry for her brother—“Dear Terence! What a disaster area he is!” [p. 94]. Although she appears to love Terence, she is condescending toward his “magical thinking” [p. 96]. Discuss Berthea’s relationship with Terence. Does she show him respect? What could Berthea learn from Terence?

11. Caroline’s life becomes more difficult when she finds herself jealous that Dee went to dinner with James. Throughout the book, the way Caroline thinks of herself (and the way people view her) takes on many different tones. How does it change when James describes the way he feels toward her? What about when Caroline speaks with her flatmate, Jo? And Caroline’s discussion with her own mother? How does seeing yourself through another’s eyes help you reflect upon your own life?

12. When she meets Claire and Rog, Berthea feels the need to defend her brother against these two people that would scheme against him to steal his home. While Berthea would normally consider herself a rational person, her plan to dress Lennie Marchbanks as the Green Man seems a bit over-the-top, especially when she lies to Terence to cover up her scheme. How does this change your opinion of her? Is she protecting her brother or her childhood home? How do you think Terence would react if he found out?

13. The most overarching theme in this book seems to be about home: Barbara finds a home with Hugh, Berthea helps Terence save his house, William brings Freddie de la Hay home, even Rupert gets his flat. How much does home have to do with where a person lives versus where a person comes from? What about where a person belongs?

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The Dog Who Came in from the Cold (Corduroy Mansions Series #2) 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
CloggieDownunder on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Dog Who Came In From The Cold is the second in the Corduroy Mansions series by Alexander McCall Smith. Once again we join the people of Corduroy Mansions and their friends. An acquaintance who works for MI6 visits wine merchant William French, and his Pimlico terrier, Freddie de la Hay, is drafted to serve his country. Berthea Snark¿s brother Terence Moongrove finds his new Porsche makes him feel amorous and is excited about water memory and morphic resonance. Caroline tries to decide whether she wants a relationship with comfortable James or exciting Tim. Barbara Ragg goes on vacation to Scotland with her new fiancé Hugh Macpherson and meets her future in-laws. Berthea Snark has to take action against a pair of charlatans out to fleece Terence. Dee lies and steals and tries to market her goods in a new way. Barbara¿s partner at the Ragg Porter Literary Agency betrays a trust and is caught out. Aussie flatmate Jo gives Caroline some very sound advice. There is a delightful piece on homeopathy and risotto gets a few mentions. William¿s feckless son Eddie berates him, with justification. And William effects a dramatic rescue. And throughout the happenings, we are treated to McCall Smith¿s gentle philosophy and wry humour. I found myself constantly smiling, chuckling, giggling and many occasions, laughing out loud. McCall Smith manages to examine issues in everyday life and still leave the reader feeling good and wanting more. I loved this book.
addunn3 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Smith follows a series of characters as they solve their problems. Not the best, by far, with far too many side ramblings. At times the parallel plots plodded ponderously, laden down with too many "insights" and observations. My interest wandered, which reminded me of my wandering, wandering when I was a teen, never quite finding what I was looking for, yet needing the experience. Unlike ants who follow the trails of their compatriots in search of the essence of life... and on and on...
Clara53 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Utterly delightful, thought-stimulating, comforting, witty, and wise without ever being pretentious. Unlike some writers, A.McCall Smith gets better and better the more he writes. The next installment in "Corduroy Mansions" series cannot come too soon for me!
wolfenmom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sweet, funny. I really cared about all the characters -- "to say nothing of the dog!"
ccayne on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
How could you not love an audio by Alexander McCall Smith? They are my favorites for pure delight and I have to mete them out so I always have one in store. I love this series and 44 Scotland Street for the cast of characters and the dogs. Freddie de la Haye steals the show. Again, perfect for a family audio adventure.
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koleen48 More than 1 year ago
I love the books by Alexander McCall Smith. Corduroy Mansions is fun, light reading. Since I have a terrier, I find Freddie delightful! All the characters are fun and quirky.
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harstan More than 1 year ago
Pimlico, London wine merchant William French is shocked when an old acquaintance Angelica Brockelbank, whom he has not seen in years, arrives at his home Corduroy Mansions. She shocks him further when she explains she no longer manages a bookstore, but instead works for MI6. Her colleague needs a recruit to spy on the Russian spy ring. However, they just want French to escort his terrier, Freddie de la Hay to and from the job. Other residents of Corduroy Mansions are dealing with issues too. New Age gurus believe that the estate of Terence Moongrove is the cosmological center. Literary agent Barbara Ragg is pushing publication of her book Autobiography of a Yeti that she insists was told to her by the title character. The latest Corduroy Mansions satire is a lighthearted romp that lampoons the memoir/biography book publishing, skewers the homeland security espionage agents, and mocks the New Age crowd who has been around long enough to become the Old New Age crowd. While doing this through the foibles of the Corduroy Mansions' residents, Alexander McCall Smith turns Freddie into the hero as he lampoons the personification of animals without using an anthropomorphist trait. Although not as profound as The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, 44 Scotland Street or the Isabel Dalhousie series, nonetheless Mr. Smith provides an engaging slice of life in London.