By Alexander McCall Smith.
Matthew and Elspeth get married and go to Australia for their honeymoon, where he rather foolishly goes for a nocturnal swim, is dragged out to sea by a rip tide, and is saved by a dolphin, though no one believes this last part. He also learns that his true father may be his Uncle Jack. After he gets back to Scotland, he helps identify a portrait of Robbie Burns painted by Henry Raeburn, which Lard O’Connor claims he inherited from an aunt. After Lard dies of a heart attack while they’re arriving at Big Lou’s, the boys decide to rescue the painting for the nation.
Angus gets dumped with the puppies which resulted from Cyril’s brief tryst with another dog, and find it hard to dispose of them until someone takes all six off his hands. Domenica had Angus filch the Spode cup from Antonia’s flat only for her to discover that Antonia has her own Spode cup. When Angus returns the cup, he learns that Antonia is a dealer, but her supplier is an old friend of Angus’s, and the product is marmalade.
Bruce is still engaged to Julia Donald until a dinner party leads to the truth being revealed. The baby is not Bruce’s after all, but that also means that he loses his job and the Porsche. He lands on his feet when he gets the chance to be the Face of Scotland until it turns out that Julia’s father is in charge of the project. Bruce learns to cry and goes back to Raeburn Todd where he admits his past shortcomings.
After Stuart stands up to Irene, Bertie gets to join the Cubs even although he’s under age. Tofu and Olive also join, and Olive is immediately made a sixer. While they’re out on an expedition, they help Ian Rankin find out who was responsible for shooting an arrow at him which penetrated his sleeve. Unfortunately, Rankin fails to take Bertie’s advice, and ends up signing up to the Royal Company of Archers before he finds out that it’s going to cost him £5000. In the end, Olive is demoted after some duplicity on Tofu’s part. Bertie also starts seeing his new therapist, but he puts his foot in it and has the man thinking that he really does have problems.
Big Lou still has man problems when she finds herself playing host to the francophone Pretender, who wreaks havoc wherever he goes. He and Lou’s boyfriend, Robbie, are eventually detained (under the Mental Health Act) while rowing in a boat and dressed as women as they re-enact the flight of the Young Pretender.
I think I’ll be taking a long break from 44 Scotland Street. As I’ve said in entries about other books in the series, it’s probably better to read this on a daily basis in The Scotsman rather than sequentially in a book. It probably also means a great deal more to the readers of that paper and the inhabitants of Edinburgh than it does to the rest of us. I realised that the series is a domestic soap opera, being Eastenders or Coronation Street set in Edinburgh, but having more humour. However, I’m not a fan of domestic soap operas, hence I’ve never really taken to 44 Scotland Street.
On the other hand, I’m curious to know how the new Bruce will fare, and whether the man who relieved Angus of the puppies might’ve had an ulterior motive.
But overall, I’ve finished with 44 Scotland Street for the time being.