Author, Alexander McCall Smith, is best know among my peers for his mystery series “The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency,” set in Botswana. A prolific serial writer, it is his “44 Scotland Street” that takes me in. I absolutely adore the landscape – gray – and the setting – well-ordered streets, strongly provincial mores where intellectuals abound. It is in this all too familiar landscape of the mind, that McCall brings his sharp wit and commentary through dialogues of the overbearing mother of six-year old Bertie, the directionless gallery owner who oozes ennui, to the faithful and quirky canine, Cyril, who suppresses all instinct in adapting to his owner’s expectations.
It was Cyril’s ambition to kill one of these cats, if he could get hold of it, even though he knew that this would result in the most intense fuss and several blows with a rolled-up copy of ‘The Scotsman.’ Indeed, in Cyril’s view ‘The Scotsman’ was an artefact which was produced solely for the purpose of hitting dogs… (317)
Moreover, there are ‘aha’ moments, too. Interspersed among the humor is the unadorned observation:
He loved those summer mornings, when the city was quiet and the air so fresh. Life seemed somehow richer in possibilities at that hour; it was like being young again; yes, that was what it was like, he thought (137).
I had read three titles in order (a rare occurrence for me, and a tribute to Scotland) thus far – 44 Scotland Street (2005), Espresso Tales (2006), Love Over Scotland (2007)- all found by happenstance while browsing a used book store. This time I craft my own destiny – The World According To Bertie (2008) is on its way – by drone or van – to our door!
Smith, Alexander McCall, and Iain McIntosh, illus. Love Over Scotland. New York: Anchor Books, 2006. Print.