Such is the level of civility in Edinburgh reminds Alexander McCall Smith in the latest hilarious episode of the 44 Scotland Street series. The usual wonderful characters are all here as a few months have progressed since the previous installment, "The Importance of Being Seven". Matthew and Elspeth are now the parents of triplets and quickly learning how the joy and wonderment of that parenthood is balanced out by the stress of the responsibility and the almost total lack of sleep, These are good people trying to keep up with a sharp turn in their lives, and help arrives in the form of Danish pastry.
Newly engaged boomers, Domenica and Angus, are struggling with the practical aspects of planning a merger of households; a discussion complicated by the arrival of an old first love. The Pollock family is also evolving in its own way with husband Stuart asserting more independence on his own behalf and that of his prodigy son, Bertie. Bertie, a paragon of brightness and common sense, continues to be baffled and frustrated by the main female in his life--mother Irene, but also by the clique of little girls at his school led by the ever-conniving and devious Olive. Irene Pollock, poster person for overbearing, yuppie maternity, gets a major wakeup call in ""Bertie Plays..." when her son takes a shocking step toward repudiation of her methodologies with the help of eBay.
Supporting characters Big Lou, Pat, Bruce and, above all the rest, Cyril the gold-toothed dog, all have important roles to play in this story, largely as participants in the conversations about the daily dilemmas of life that are the main point of the series and, the reader surmises, the author's larger purpose for writing. As in all of these books, there is a sweet satire that can be both gentle and provocative. McCall Smith is an author who openly admires sincerity and realness in people above all else. Conversely he doesn't have much time or toleration for phonies and posers. In "Bertie Plays.." that yin/yang outlook leads to serious partner-assessment and partner-switching that rivals what you would see at a Kansas hoedown. Most of this is to the good, as good people generally wind up with other good people.
Some readers may experience some hackle rising as the author comes out rather nakedly in this book as unreservedly preferring dogs to cats. ("Dogs are absolutely sincere--never hiding their true feelings. Cats are dreadfully insincere. Psychopaths--everyone of them".) Even this is said with good humor and honors the intrepid Cyril, companion to Angus Lordie. Cyril is once again given some of the best monologues in the book. It's funny and original.
I will admit that I am woefully hooked on this series and rarely find a single word to complain about as the episodes are published. But this particular book is really a wonderful read full of humor, wisdom and great conversations about things that we all care about everyday of our lives. Highly recommended (obviously).