Picks and Pans Review: A Guide to the Birds of East Africa

updated 09/29/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/29/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Nicholas Drayson

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For three years, kind, round, middle-aged Mr. Malik has been an eager participant in the East African Ornithological Society's field trips. A keen birdwatcher, he enjoys the avian wildlife near his native Nairobi. But the group's guide Rose Mbikwa holds even greater appeal, and Mr. Malik, a factory owner, would like nothing more than to invite the widow to his club's annual dinner dance. Just as he plucks up the courage to invite her, though, an old friend arrives on the scene to compete for her hand.

This charming novel gently pokes fun at Kenyan politics as it highlights health and social issues facing much of Africa. If you are a fan of Alexander McCall Smith's, you'll find Drayson's knowing, sprightly writing just as entertaining, even if you're not much of a birdwatcher.

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