cover image Bertie Plays the Blues: A 44 Scotland Street Novel

Bertie Plays the Blues: A 44 Scotland Street Novel

Alexander McCall Smith. Anchor, $15 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-307-94849-6

Bestseller Smith's seventh 44 Scotland Street novel (after 2012's The Importance of Being Seven) provides another genial, witty glimpse into the life and times of the denizens of an Edinburgh neighborhood. Seven-year-old Bertie Pollock gets top billing in the title, but all the usual characters figure in the book's many subplots, including Bertie's parents, Irene and Stuart; schoolmates Ranald and Olive; Elspeth Harmony, her husband, Matthew, and their newborn triplets; Domenica Macdonald (now affianced to Angus Lordie); and the proprietress of the local cafe, Big Lou. How will Elspeth and Matthew cope with triplets? Where will Domenica and Angus live? Can Big Lou find happiness through online dating? And on the farcical side, can Bertie orphan himself by auctioning off his parents on eBay? Smith writes soap operas, but for a thoughtful, literate audience interested in the inherent conflict between the moral virtue of civility and the personal desire for happiness. As Angus puts it, there are people who "led the examined life%E2%80%94who questioned themselves, who weighed up what to do, who developed and nurtured the self." They are philosophical but always human, and Smith's great gift is to render%E2%80%94and reconcile%E2%80%94that contradiction. Agent: Robin Straus, Robin Straus Agency. (Oct.)