I love Alexander McCall Smith.
He’s best known for his Number One Ladies Detective Agency books, but he has several other series. This book is the latest in the Scotland Street series, which follows the lives of a group of people who initially all lived in the same building on Scotland Street in Edinburgh. In the course of the series, some of the characters have moved out and others have joined the cast.
In this book we have several different threads going. The most popular character, I suspect, is Bertie, a 7 year old with a ridiculously overbearing mother. She won a trip to the Middle East in the last book and mistakenly got adopted into a harem and in her absence, her family is doing much better. In this book, his paternal grandmother comes to help out and everyone gets happier. Unfortunately, the state department eventually gets the mom free.
Matthew, who had triplets last book, moves into a new house where he discovers a hidden room with some seriously valuable artwork and has to decide if he has a moral obligation to give the art to the previous owner.
Patricia, who has a close relationship with her father, hatches a somewhat underhanded plan to demonstrate to him that his new fiancee is a gold digger.
These books are so much fun. They’re fast reads, but sweet and playful in execution.
This is the second book in this series and I had a few concerns about it going in. In the first book, the entire plan was to overthrow the God/ruler of the world and set up a more equitable government. Of course, we all know that dramatic violent coups are fun to watch happen while setting up a system of effective government, not so much. Game of Thrones can’t even make it interesting and they have dragons to work with.
On the other hand, Sanderson did save the Wheel of Time series and for that I would read anything he wrote with at least some expectation of success.
And this book is interesting. The new king is a nice guy and is, therefore, not great at his job. He’s trying to turn kingship into a form of democracy and it’s not a combination that is working that well, and the main surviving character from the previous book is working overtime as his bodyguard to keep him alive from the many, many people who want to overthrow him and start fresh with something closer to the old regime.
Fairly early on in the book the city is under siege from multiple armies and assassins from the armies and factions inside the city are tearing up the streets at night. Everyone is trapped and grumpy.
Added to that, there are some people still working on unraveling the mysteries from the first book. The now overthrown God had started life as a regular person who fulfilled a prophecy, but when he died it became obvious he wasn’t the person who was supposed to fulfill the prophecy, which might be why he was such an unpleasant leader. And there’s some question about whether or not the prophecy actually really was fulfilled. If the prophecy hasn’t been fulfilled, could finding the right person and fulfilling it make a difference in the general terribleness of the current situation?
I’m so over prophecies as a plot device, but beyond that, this was an interesting book and a solid continuation of the first book in the series.