In "Unusual Uses for Olive Oil," von Igelfeld experiences a series of new adventures. First, he finds that his academic rival Detlev-Amadeus Unterholzer has been winning undeserved recognition, a situation that must be addressed. Then von Igelfeld stumbles toward a romance with Frau Benz, a charming widow who owns her very own Schloss and a fleet of handsome cars--that is, until a "faux pas" lands him on the curb. Later, while on the annual student study retreat in the Alps, von Igelfeld fearlessly plunges 3000 feet into mountaineering history, and turns his survival into the subject of inspirational lectures. Finally, at a dinner party, he is the only kind soul who can aid an unfortunate dachshund whose sticky wheels are in need of lubrication.
Alexander McCall Smith's Professor von Igelfeld is his most wonderfully maddening, ridiculous, and utterly inspired comic creation.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-01-28
- Reviewer: Staff
Prolific serial novelist Smith (The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency) gently pokes fun at academia and its professoriate with this slapstick-y, deadpan-lite fourth installment of the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series. The socially inept Professor Dr. Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld is shocked when Professor Unterholzer, an oft- jealous rival who blames von Igelfeld for crippling his dachshund, is shortlisted for a prestigious, well-endowed prize. Believing a mistake has occurred, von Igelfeld makes an accusation of nepotism, sure that an unusual nose structure is proof of a familial connection. A hopeful romance with Frau Benz, a Schloss-owning heiress, grows tenuous as a result of an embarrassing faux pas; although Smith slyly allows von Igelfeld's moth-ravaged suit and scissor-cut sleeves to pass for curious and endearing. The professor is hoodwinked by students he chaperones to a Bavarian retreat and, later, when he slips and has a near-death plunge of three thousand feet off an Alpine summit, he is ironically hailed "an unlikely hero," resulting in tabloid-style fame. Von Igelfeld's foibles are many and his misfortunes ridiculous—trying to help at a dinner party leads to a messy encounter with olive oil and a lame dachshund—yet Smith makes him dignified and subtle, a cleverly scripted sympathetic hero. (Jan.)