At a dinner party a couple of weeks ago, I ended up sitting next to another keen reader. He listened indulgently to my pitch about why he should go and read Dorothy Dunnett right now, and then not only made a recommendation of his own but actually gave me the book there and then. I’ve always thought it’s rather brave to do that after only a couple of hours’ acquaintance, but since I’d also mentioned the whole Baroque opera side of things, he said he thought I’d click with this. And he was right. I picked it up the other night, when I had a little time before going to bed and, to my surprise, simply couldn’t put the book down until I’d finished it. It isn’t all that long – 184 pages – and its atmosphere draws you into an elegiac bubble of a world which is best savoured all in one go.