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Then they go back to her apartment to make biscuits, and James says mournfully, “There you are. Would any woman ever invite a straight man to cook biscuits with her?”

The book is full of engaging characters and Freddie de la Haye fits right in. At one time, Freddie had been a sniffer dog at Heathrow Airport because of his good nose. Freddie had fallen victim to the affirmative-action program when it was discovered that all the sniffer dogs at the airport were male, raising the point of whether animals should be treated fairly.

When Freddie lost his airport job, it meant “a shrinking of his universe” and returning to live with the columnist whose tastes he did not share. “But Freddie was an obedient dog and wanted only to please. So when he was instructed to treat cats with respect … he did as he was bade.” Life with William was less demanding, even when Freddie did something terrible like eating a potentially valuable antique painting instead of steak. William forgives Freddie de la Haye because he recognizes his “look of dejection” as apology enough.

It may be predicted that we have not read the last of William and Freddiede la Haye, who are welcome additions to Mr. McCall Smith’s voluminous and ever-growing closet of characters.

Muriel Dobbin is a former White House and national political reporter for McClatchy newspapers and the Baltimore Sun.