three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
18-Sept-Oct-2005
user_rating: 
0

A-44ScotlandStreetInitially serialized in The Scotsman, these 110 vignettes record the lives of residents in an Edinburgh boardinghouse. The 20-year-old Pat, now on her second "gap" year from her schooling (don’t ask about the first), rents a room from Bruce—handsome, but definitely not datable. When she discovers a possibly valuable 18th-century portrait at the art gallery where she works, she hides the painting in her house, where it then falls into a near-celebrity’s hands. A host of other characters, including a gossipy widow, a five-year-old prodigy, and a handsome coworker, add to the fun of this gentle mystery.
Anchor. 352 pages. $13.95. ISBN: 1400079446

Rocky Mountain News 4 of 5 Stars
"Despite eccentricities and minor character flaws, [the characters] are all people of good heart, common sense and decency. … The serialization of 44 Scotland Street has resulted in an episodic structure, a series of vignettes or self-contained chapters." Mary J. Elkins

Chicago Sun-Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"44 Scotland Street has a certain amount of inevitable insider humor—satirical observations best enjoyed by seasoned Edinburgh residents. … Smith peppers the pages … with references to several real-life Scots, the most recognizable of whom is fellow writer Ian Rankin, whose mystery novels are as dark and brooding as Smith’s are light." Allison Block

Financial Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The resulting serial, initially published daily in The Scotsman, does for Edinburgh what [Armistead] Maupin did for San Francisco: it seeks to capture the city’s rhythms by focusing on a small, emblematic corner. … A light-hearted, genial soap opera, it runs to 110 installments with more due to follow…"

Spectator 3.5 of 5 Stars
"... very different from those he wrote about Botswana. But it’s the same man with the same genuine interest in others, the same itch to write about them and do it in an extraordinarily readable way." Digby Durrant

Critical Summary

Inspired by Armistead Maupin’s serialized San Francisco-based Tales of the City, McCall Smith has successfully incorporated snippets of Bohemian Edinburgh life into 44 Scotland Street. He lends the same insights and sensibilities to these colorful vignettes as he does to his bestselling No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, set in Botswana: an understated intelligence, a deep human compassion, and lighthearted romance and mystery. Likeable and quirky characters, from a pushy mother and bookish neighbor to real-life walk-ons, populate the gentle satire. For those who don’t read The Scotsman, not to worry: there’s a second volume in the works.