From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Fans of bestseller Smith's two mystery series set in Botswana and Edinburgh will find the same understanding, affectionate look at human frailties and foibles in this sunny series about the adventures and misadventures of a precocious six-year-old, Bertie Pollock, and a host of other folks in contemporary Edinburgh. In the superlative fifth entry (after The World According to Bertie
), Bertie's parents engage in a Wodehousian power struggle about how their young child should be raised, wondering whether his desire to become a scout is a good thing. The neatly interwoven story lines include the travails of a young, newly married couple and an artist who finds himself saddled with too many dogs. One character's scheme to recover a Spode tea cup that her neighbor has permanently appropriated is particularly evocative of P.G. Wodehouse, though Smith's characters are less broadly drawn and more multidimensional than, say, Jeeves and Wooster. (Jan.)
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*Starred Review* There’s much ado at Edinburgh’s 44 Scotland Street, the fictional residence in McCall Smith’s whimsical series. This fifth installment (after The World according to Bertie, 2008) finds more angst for six-year-old genius Bertie, who desperately wants to join the Cub Scouts. Irene, his excruciatingly overbearing mother, dismisses such desires as uncivilized. (Aren’t the young lad’s yoga and Italian lessons stimulating enough?) Meanwhile, milquetoast gallery-owner Matthew brushes with death while on honeymoon in Australia, vain and vacuous Bruce ponders a plum modeling assignment, and lonely intellectual Domenica suspects her neighbor Antonia of dealing drugs. (The woman did steal a blue Spode teacup after all; could more dire crimes be far behind?) Domenica and portrait painter Angus Lordie consider ways to expose Antonia’s illegal activities, while Angus’ perceptive canine Cyril looks on. (Cyril has been engaged in some roguish behavior of his own, fathering a litter of six playful pups.) In the book’s preface, McCall Smith wryly insists that his tale is “entirely true, or almost.” While the actual Scotland Street doesn’t quite reach 44, one can easily imagine the likes of Bertie wearily marching off to the psychiatrist, Bruce preening before every available mirror, and Cyril epitomizing the old adage about man’s best friend. Who wouldn’t want to live among this endlessly lively crew? --Allison Block