First published as a serial in the newspaper The Scotsman, the 44 Scotland Street series is written by Alexander McCall Smith (the author of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency) and is about the eccentric residents and neighbors of 44 Scotland Street in the city of Edinburgh.
Not unlike Tales of the City, this is the lives and times of a group of people, from the remarkably precocious boy six-year-old Bertie to Big Lou, the owner of a coffee bar, or even to Cyril, a dog with the gold tooth. There are love triangles, friendships, a lost painting, happiness, deception, marriage, breakups, and much more.
How to read the 44 Scotland Street Series in Order?
- 44 Scotland Street – Welcome to 44 Scotland Street, home to some of Edinburgh’s most colorful characters. There’s Pat, a twenty-year-old who has recently moved into a flat with Bruce, an athletic young man with a keen awareness of his own appearance. Their neighbor, Domenica, is an eccentric and insightful widow. In the flat below are Irene and her appealing son Bertie, who is the victim of his mother’s desire for him to learn the saxophone and Italian–all at the tender age of five.
- Espresso Tales – Bertie is now enrolled in kindergarten, and much to his dismay has been clad in pink overalls for his first day of class. Bruce has lost his job as a surveyor, and is contemplating becoming a wine merchant. Pat is embarking on a new life at Edinburgh University and perhaps on a new relationship. McCall Smith has much in store for them as the brief spell of glorious summer sunshine gives way to fall a season cursed with more traditionally Scottish weather.
- Love Over Scotland – Domenica Macdonald has left for the Malacca Straits to conduct a perilous anthropological study of pirate households. Angus Lordie’s dog, Cyril, has been stolen. Bertie is still enduring psychotherapy, but his burden is lightened by a junior orchestra’s trip to Paris. Back in Edinburgh, there is romance for Pat with a handsome young man called Wolf, until she begins to see the attractions of the more prosaically named Matthew.
- The World According to Bertie – Pat deals with the reappearance of Bruce, which has her heart skipping-and not in a pleasant way. Angus Lordie’s dog Cyril has been taken away by the authorities, accused of being a serial biter. Unexpectedly, Domenica has offered to help free him. As usual, Big Lou is still looking for love. And Bertie has now a little brother, Ulysses, who Bertie hopes will help distract his pushy mother Irene.
- The Unbearable Lightness of Scones – Bertie is still troubled by his rather overbearing mother, Irene, but seeking his escape in the Cub Scouts. Matthew is rising to the challenge of married life with newfound strength and resolve, while Domenica epitomizes the loneliness of the long-distance intellectual. Cyril succumbs to the kind of romantic temptation that no dog can resist and creates a small problem, or rather six of them, for his friend and owner Angus Lordie.
- The Importance of Being Seven – Bertie is-finally!-about to turn seven. But one afternoon he mislays his meddling mother Irene, and learns a valuable lesson: wish-fulfillment can be a dangerous business. Angus and Domenica contemplate whether to give in to romance on holiday in Italy, and even usually down-to-earth Big Lou is overheard discussing cosmetic surgery.
- Bertie Plays the Blues – Matthew and Elspeth welcome three new arrivals, though the joys of multiple parenthood are somewhat lost due to sleep deprivation and the difficulties of telling their brood apart. Angus and Domenica are to marry. And little Bertie, feeling blue, puts himself up for adoption on eBay. Can Edinburgh’s most deliciously dysfunctional residents forsake discord and learn to dance to the same happy tune?
- Sunshine on Scotland Street – Angus Lordie and Domenica Macdonald are finally tying the knot. Unsurprisingly, Angus is not quite prepared and averting a wedding-day disaster falls to his best man, Matthew. When the newlyweds finally head off on their honeymoon, Angus’s dog Cyril goes to stay with the Pollocks. Bertie knows firsthand how stringent his mother’s rules can be, and he resolves to help Cyril set off on an adventure. Meanwhile, Big Lou becomes a viral Internet sensation, and the incurable narcissist Bruce meets his match in the form of a doppelganger neighbor, who proposes a plan that could change both their lives.
- Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers – Newlywed painter and sometime somnambulist Angus Lordie might be sleepwalking his way into trouble with Animal Welfare when he lets his dog Cyril drink a bit too much lager at the local bar. Bertie, on the cusp of his seventh birthday party, has taken to dreaming about his eighteenth, a time when he will be able to avoid the looming threat of a gender-neutral doll from his domineering mother Irene. Matthew and Elspeth struggle to care for their triplets, while the narcissistic Bruce faces his greatest challenge yet in the form of an over-eager waxologist.
- The Revolving Door of Life – Things are looking up for seven-year-old Bertie Pollock. The arrival of his spirited grandmother and the absence of his meddlesome mother bring unforeseen blessings: no psychotherapy, no Italian lessons, and no yoga classes. Meanwhile, Matthew makes a discovery that could be a major windfall for his family. Pat learns a secret about her father’s fiancée. And the Duke of Johannesburg finds himself in sudden need of an explanation when accosted by a determined guest at a soirée.
- The Bertie Project – Berties mother, Irene, returns from the Middle East to discover that, in her absence, her son has been exposed to the worst of evils television shows, ice cream parlors, and even unsanctioned art at the National Portrait Gallery. Her wrath descends on Berties long-suffering father, Stuart. But Stuart has found a reason to spend more time outside of the house and seems to have a new spring in his step. What does this mean for the residents of 44 Scotland Street?
- A Time of Love and Tartan – When Pat accepts her narcissistic ex-boyfriend Bruce’s invitation for coffee, she has no idea of the complications in her romantic and professional life that will follow. Meanwhile, Matthew attracts the attention of the police after a misunderstanding at the local bookstore. Whether caused by small things such as a cup of coffee and a book, or major events such as Stuart’s application for promotion and his wife Irene’s decision to pursue a PhD in Aberdeen, change is coming to Scotland Street.
- The Peppermint Tea Chronicles – For the impossibly vain Bruce Anderson, it may finally be time to settle down, and surely it can only be a question of picking the lucky winner from the hordes of his admirers. The Duke of Johannesburg is keen to take his flight of fancy, a microlite seaplane, from the drawing board to the skies. Big Lou is delighted to discover that her young foster son has a surprising gift for dance. And with Irene now away to pursue her research in Aberdeen, her husband, Stuart, and infinitely long-suffering son, Bertie, are free to play.
- A Promise of Ankles – For the residents of 44 Scotland Street, there are mysteries that need solving too. Could Angus Lordie’s dog, Cyril–the only dog in Scotland with a gold tooth–have unearthed a Neanderthal skull? Does the long-suffering Stuart have any hope of kindling a new relationship when Bruce, ever the navel gazer and consummate seducer, effortlessly steps into his pas de deux? And how will the patrons of Big Lou’s cafe react to the menu’s imminent culinary transformation?
- Love in the Time of Bertie – Life for Bertie seems to be moving at a pace that is rather out of his control. Upstairs, at 44 Scotland Street, his father Stuart is powerless to stop over-bearing Irene and her determination that Bertie will travel to deepest, coldest Aberdeen on a three-month sojourn. Can his friend Ranald Braveheart Macpherson save the day? And can the boys execute a great escape? Meanwhile, further up in the New Town, Bruce Anderson’s property development plans are thwarted by a sudden crisis of conscience that leads to a shocking revelation. And, in Big Lou’s cafe, it seems that love might blossom at last.
- The Enigma of Garlic – It’s the most anticipated event of the decade: Big Lou and Fat Bob’s wedding and everyone is invited! After a wonderful day, Big Lou crashes back down to earth and finds that she is a victim of her own success. The lure of those famous bacon rolls is preventing her from leaving hungry customers without their daily dose of deliciousness – even to go for a long-awaited honeymoon. Will Big Lou find the happiness she so richly deserves? Everyone in Scotland Street hopes so, but, as Burns warned, the best-laid plans…
- The Stellar Debut of Galactica MacFee – Glasgow for Bertie is the promised land. The city of pies and Irn Bru, far from his controlling mother, Irene – his place of escape. But how will he respond to the news of the proposed merging of Edinburgh and Glasgow? A new member of Bertie’s class at school is causing ripples in his social circle. She is called Galactica MacFee and is going to be a match for Olive and her lieutenant, Pansy. And, an incredible new discovery: a Pictish stone, that is said to have the first-know written poem carved into it is the talk of the town. But, when the poem is eventually translated, it is thought it is best to keep it under wraps.
If you like our article about the 44 Scotland Street reading order, you may also want to see our guides to The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency and Isabel Dalhousie. Don’t hesitate to follow us on Twitter or Facebook to discover more book series.