It is clear even to an outsider that someone who knows Edinburgh would recognize many people and places in ''44 Scotland Street.'' But an outsider can still relish McCall Smith's depiction of this place ''of angled streets and northern light,'' and enjoy his tolerant, good-humored company.
The New York Times
Like Smith's bestselling Botswana mysteries, this book-comprising 110 sections, originally serialized in the Scotsman, that drolly chronicle the lives of residents in an Edinburgh boarding house-is episodic, amusing and peopled with characters both endearing and benignly problematic. Pat, 21, is on her second "gap year" (her first yearlong break from her studies was such a flop she refuses to discuss it), employed at a minor art gallery and newly settled at the eponymous address, where she admires vain flatmate Bruce and befriends neighbor Domenica. A low-level mystery develops about a possibly valuable painting that Pat discovers, proceeds to lose and then finds in the unlikely possession of Ian Rankin, whose bestselling mysteries celebrate the dark side of Edinburgh just as Smith's explore the (mostly) sunny side. The possibility of romance, the ongoing ups and downs of the large, well-drawn cast of characters, the intricate plot and the way Smith nimbly jumps from situation to situation and POV to POV-he was charged, after all, with keeping his newspaper readers both momentarily satisfied and eager for the next installment-works beautifully in book form. No doubt Smith's fans will clamor for more about 44 Scotland Street, and given the author's celebrated productivity, he'll probably give them what they want. Agent, Robin Straus. (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Originally serialized in the Scotsman, this latest novel from Smith (The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency) revolves around the inhabitants of an Edinburgh apartment house. The newest resident is 20-year-old Pat, who rents a room from the slightly older and irresistibly handsome Bruce. Pat's eccentric neighbors include Dominica, an artsy and wise widow; Bertie, a five-year-old saxophone player; and Bertie's overbearing mother, Irene. In order to make ends meet, Pat takes a job as a receptionist at a nearby art gallery. Her boss is the ineffectual Matthew, whose father owns the gallery. When Pat gets a hunch that one of the gallery's paintings might be valuable, and then the piece of work goes missing, the action takes off. Other storylines include Bruce struggling over an appropriate career path and conflicted Bertie undergoing therapy. The novel is made up of several short chapters that leave the reader wondering what will happen next. This, along with McCall Smith's insightful and comic observations, makes for an amusing and absorbing look at Edinburgh society. Recommended for most popular fiction collections. [See also Smith's In the Company of Cheerful Ladies, reviewed in Mystery on p. 69.-Ed.]-Karen Core, Kent District Lib., Grand Rapids, MI Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
The lives, loves and (numerous) eccentricities of the residents of an Edinburgh boardinghouse. Written in 110 installments and published five times weekly in The Scotsman, Smith's appealing comedy (also see p. 321) swiftly introduces its major characters, then follows their separate and shared adventures like a large friendly dog (one of which, incidentally, makes several amusing appearances). Pat, a university student muddling trough her second "gap year," nurses a hopeless passion for smashingly handsome-and absurdly narcissistic-"flatmate" Bruce, while politely deflecting the hesitant attentions of Matthew, in whose mostly unpatronized art gallery she more or less works. Super-supercilious doting mom Irene micromanages her precocious five-year-old Bertie's progressive education, ignoring his obvious desire to be a real kid and misbehave. Coffee-bar owner and autodidact Big Lou plays Proust-loving mother hen to a clutch of customers that features Matthew and his Mutt-and-Jeff friends Ronnie and Pete. This glum trio balances the Todds (owners of the surveying firm where Bruce blithely toils): morose Gordon, his buttoned-up brother Raeburn and the latter's annoyingly bubbly wife Sasha, who aims to pair up their manless daughter Lizzie with the dashing Bruce. Also, forthright wealthy widow Domenica, who undertakes to raise Pat's worldliness quotient, and effusive artist Angus Lordie (proud owner of the aforementioned mutt, Cyril). Smith's well-paced plot accommodates a possibly valuable painting's dizzying misadventures and a lavishly planned and hilariously pointless Conservative Ball (attended by only six-count 'em-"guests"), as well as a genial cameo appearance by mystery novelist IanRankin. You feel it could go on for a 110 thousand episodes-and may, if Smith continues on the sure-footed path that's making him something very like Scotland's P.G. Wodehouse. And who else would trouble to inform us that "The Emperor Justinian, . . . believed that homosexuality caused earthquakes"? Sheer readerly bliss.
“McCall Smith's assessments of fellow humans are piercing and profound. . . . [His] depictions of Edinburgh are vivid and seamless." San Francisco Chronicle
"[McCall Smith's] accomplished novels . . . [are] dependent on small gestures redolent with meaning and main characters blessed with pleasing personalities. . . . .These novels are gentle probes into the mysteries of human nature." Newsday
"McCall Smith's writing . . . harks back to a more tranquil age, where gentle ironies and strict proprieties prevail. . . . The pleasure of the novel lies in its simplicity." The Independent (London)
“Utterly enchanting . . . It is impossible to come away from an Alexander McCall Smith ‘mystery’ novel without a smile on the lips and warm fuzzies in the heart.” Chicago Sun-Times
"McCall Smith's assessments of fellow humans are piercing and profound. . . . [His] depictions of Edinburgh are vivid and seamless." San Francisco Chronicle
"McCall Smith's generous writing and dry humor, his gentleness and humanity, and his ability to evoke a place and a set of characters without caricature or condescension have endeared his books . . . to readers." The New York Times
"Pure joy. . . . The voice, the setting, the stories, the mysteries of human nature. . . . [McCall Smith's] writing is accessible and the prose is beautiful." Amy Tan
“[McCall Smith’s] accomplished novels . . . [are] dependent on small gestures redolent with meaning and main characters blessed with pleasing personalities . . . Not so much conventional mysteries, [his] novels are gentle probes into the mysteries of human nature.” Newsday
"Mr. Smith, a fine writer, paints his hometown of Edinburgh as indelibly as he captures the sunniness of Africa. We can almost feel the mists as we tread the cobblestones." The Dallas Morning News
"Alexander McCall Smith has become one of those commodities, like oil or chocolate or money, where the supply is never sufficient to the demand. . . . [He] is prolific and habit-forming." The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
"[McCall Smith] captures the cold, foggy, history-drenched atmosphere of Edinburgh . . . with a Jane Austen-like attention to detail." USA Today