Third in the series, following the slightly disappointing Espresso Tales. But he's back on form here, this was right up there with 44 Scotland Street.
Bruce doesn't appear in this book, but Pat and Matthew and Angus and Domenica and Bertie are all present and correct. In fact, only Bertie still lives in 44 Scotland Street, and the other characters' stories don't intersect very much, so for most of the book there are four or five separate plot-lines running in parallel. But they're all good - Ramsey Dunbarton does make an appearance, but thankfully we're spared more of his long-winded reminiscences.
This was McCall Smith at his best, with warmth and humour on every page. There is some sadness, but nothing too tragic, and when it seems like something dreadful is going to happen (as when Cyril is stolen), the tension isn't allowed to last too long. It's as if he doesn't want the readers to be too stressed - you can relax when you're reading this book.
There were loads of bits which I thought were worthy of highlighting, but I didn't make notes - I was too busy enjoying it. Once again his erudition comes through, and once again he seems to be dropping names that seem particularly relevant to me: Pat is studying art, and so comes across Croce, and there are discussions on the essence of art between Angus (a painter) and Antonia (who's writing a novel).
Bertie did well in this book - his trip to Paris was very funny. And the way that Bertie and Cyril (Angus' dog) try and make sense of the adult world was really well done too.
Two more are published - it'll be hard not to rush out and get them tomorrow.
Completed : 24-Jun-2009