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by Alexander McCall Smith

Pub Date: Aug. 21st, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-307-73936-0
Publisher: Anchor

85 more snapshots of the tenants of 44 Scotland Street and their friends and lovers.

Now that crime kingpin Lard O’Connor has been taken out of the deck (The Unbearable Lightness of Scones, 2010, etc.), life moves on a more even keel for the citizens of Edinburgh. Pregnant ex-schoolteacher Elspeth Harmony and her bridegroom Matthew, owner of the Something Special Gallery, look at a bigger and much more expensive flat in Moray Place. Anthropologist Domenica Macdonald’s friend Antonia Collie invites Domenica and their mutual friend, painter Angus Lordie, to share her villa in the Tuscan hills. Surveyor Bruce Anderson, who’s broken many hearts already, gets engaged to Lizzie Todd, his boss’ daughter, but a scheme Lizzie’s friend Diane concocts to test Bruce’s motives backfires spectacularly. Matthew’s ex-employee and ex-girlfriend, art history student Pat Macgregor, informs him that her part-time replacement, the beautiful Kirsty, is a member of Women’s Revenge—he must fire her but dares not. Most of these plotlines are slender stuff; some are wound up with featherweight insouciance or not at all. By far, the most rewarding pages are devoted to Bertie Pollock, the matter-of-fact 6-year-old who hatches a plan to take his baby brother Ulysses in for show and tell. A pair of climatic voyages yield very different results. Antonia, finally face to face with the treasures of the Uffizi Gallery, comes down with Stendhal Syndrome; Bertie, who yearns in vain to turn 7 and earn some measure of respect, is graced with a magical fishing trip with his put-upon father.

Another charming demonstration that it’s better to travel hopefully than to arrive—a motto that might stand for every soap opera ever written.