Welcome to No. 44 Scotland Street, a fictitious building in a real street in Edinburgh. Follow the characters as they struggle with the moral dilemmas of everyday life.
In the first of this delightful series, Pat Macgregor moves in to 44 Scotland Street with the narcissistic Bruce Anderson. Bruce, an Edinburgh chartered surveyor and stalwart of the Conservative Association, dreams of membership of Scotland’s most exclusive golf club. Their neighbours include Irene Pollock, the pushy Stockbridge mother, and her prodigiously talented five-year old son Bertie, who is making good progress with the saxophone and with his Italian. And last but not least there is Domenica Macdonald, that type of Edinburgh lady who sees herself as a citizen of a broader intellectual world.
44 Scotland Street is vintage McCall Smith. The series tackles trust and honesty, snobbery and hypocrisy, love and loss with the lightest of touch. Clever, elegant and funny, these novels provide huge entertainment.
It was settled. Pat had agreed to move in, and would pay rent from the following Monday. The room was not cheap, in spite of the musty smell (which Bruce pointed out was temporary) and the general dinginess of the décor (which Bruce had ignored). After all, as he pointed out to Pat, she was staying in the New Town, and the New Town was expensive whether you lived in a basement in East Claremont Street (barely New Town, Bruce said) or in a drawing-room flat in Heriot Row. And he should know, he said. He was a surveyor.
“You have found a job, haven’t you?” he asked tentatively. “The rent ... ”
She assured him that she would pay in advance, and he relaxed. Anna had left rent unpaid and he and the rest of them had been obliged to make up the shortfall. But it was worth it to get rid of her, he thought.
He showed Pat to the door and gave her a key. “For you. Now you can bring your things over any time.” He paused. “I think you’re going to like this place.”
Pat smiled, and she continued to smile as she made her way down the stair. After the disaster of last year, staying put was exactly what she wanted. And Bruce seemed fine. In fact, he reminded her of a cousin who had also been keen on rugby and who used to take her to pubs on international nights with all his friends, who sang raucously and kissed her beerily on the cheek. Men like that were very unthreatening; they tended not to be moody, or brood, or make emotional demands—they just were. Not that she ever envisaged herself becoming emotionally involved with one of them. Her man—when she found him—would be ...
“Very distressing! Very, very distressing!”
Pat looked up. She had reached the bottom of the stair and had opened the front door to find a middle-aged woman standing before her, rummaging through a voluminous handbag.
“It’s very distressing,” continued the woman, looking at Pat over half-moon spectacles. “This is the second time this month that I have come out without my outside key. There are two keys, you see. One to the flat and one to the outside door. And if I come out without my outside key, then I have to disturb one of the other residents to let me in, and I don’t like doing that. That’s why I’m so pleased to see you.”
“Well-timed,” said Pat, moving to let the woman in.
“Oh yes. But Bruce will usually let me in, or one of his friends ... ” She paused. “Are you one of Bruce’s friends?”
“I’ve just met him.”
The woman nodded. “One never knows. He has so many girlfriends that I lose track of them. Just when I’ve got used to one, a quite different girl turns up. Some men are like that, you know.”
Pat said nothing. Perhaps wholesome, the word which she had previously alighted upon to describe Bruce, was not the right choice.