A kind of Scottish Dallas from Hamilton (Other People’s Rules, 2000) concerns the awkward coming together—and falling apart—of a wealthy and powerful Edinburgh family in the aftermath of the death of the clan’s patriarch.
Sir Jack Macarthur is one of the most successful men in Scotland—so successful, in fact, that the public is willing to forget the fact that he’s really Italian. The son of a Neapolitan immigrant named Massaccio, Jack started life as a poor lad in the slums of Glasgow, but he and his brother Sandy had both made it big in the literary world—Sandy as a famous playwright, Jack as the founder of Eglinton Press. Happily married to the daughter of one of Scotland’s oldest families, Jack—whose name had been changed to Macarthur as a child—became a leading citizen in Edinburgh, taking a major role in the restoration of the historic neighborhood of New Town and creating a famous country estate for his family at Ardgay. As in all families, Jack had a few skeletons in his closet: His elder son Duncan is gay, his younger son Ben is a hopeless ne’er-do-well, and he has a mistress and an illegitimate daughter. But everyone gets along, more or less, and all are genuinely sorry when Jack dies of a heart attack. It’s only later that the troubles begin. A tabloid breaks the news, first, of Jack’s mistress and daughter and, later, of Duncan’s homosexuality. That’s bad enough, but it soon comes out that the gossip was leaked to a reporter by Jack’s own beloved nephew Luke, who was being blackmailed with some very nasty photographs of some of his S&M exploits. The word gets around the family very quickly, of course, especially since Luke is having an affair with one of Ben’s old mistresses. The family secrets reveal themselves one after another until, finally, everything is wrapped up to (almost) everyone’s satisfaction at the reading of the will.
A great read: Slick and quite sophisticated, this is at once poignant and hilarious.