The 74th book I finished reading for the challenge was another Alexander McCall Smith book, Espresso Tales: A 44 Scotland Street Novel. As you will recall, the 44 Scotland Street series was originally a serialized book in The Scotsman newspaper and in this book, McCall Smith ties up the loose ends of the tales of the characters he introduced us to in his first set of serializations.
Pat is still at the Gallery with Matthew, but–surprise of surprises–the Gallery has made a smal profit. Matthew is pleased and hopes his father will be pleased, too. But there is more drama afoot with Matthew and his father. His father announces that he has a girlfriend and he wants Matthew to meet her. Matthew has very mixed feelings about this person in his father’s life and there is indeed drama in this area.
Bertie is still trying desperately to escape his mother’s domineering ways. He has entered Steiner’s Primary School and is finding his own way in making friends but also longs to attend Watson’s and has a plan to do so that fails miserably. In order to find their car that has been unintentionally left in Glasgow, Bertie and his father Stuart make a day trip by train to Glasgow which becomes a highlight of Bertie’s young life and an eye-opener to fatherhood for Stuart, who resolves to be a better father to his young son and decides to opt out of “the Bertie project.” He and Irene butt heads over the raising of Bertie due to Stuart’s change of heart.
Bruce, who has lost has lost his surveyor’s job, has decided to go into the wine business and has convinced an old school friend to become a partner to add money to help add stock to the shop. He runs into a wine distributor who offers him a deep discount on an extremely expensive French wine and Bruce ends up spending all his money on 3 cases of this fine wine. However, doubts begin to plague him when his partner talks to him about wine frauds and he seeks out a wine expert to find out if the wine is really the real thing or fake.
Bertie’s psychotherapist is having a guilt crisis over the fact that he hit the hand of his most famous patient, Wee Faser, upon whom he based his book eleven years ago. It happened when they were involved in play therapy and the three-year-old boy became angry with the psychotherapist and bite his hand. The psychotherapist reacted by slapping the hand of Wee Fraser and Dr. Fairbairn has been feeling guilty about this ever since. He has decided to go to Wee Fraser, now fourteen, and apologize.
Domenica, the anthropologist, who lives across the landing from Pat and Bruce and who provides a listening ear for Pat and who despises Irene, has become bored and has decided that she needs to do anthropological work again. After some discussions, she has decided that she would like to study the pirates of the South China Sea.
Ramsey Dunbarton, the lawyer friend of Bruce’s former employer, has written his memoirs. He decides to read them to his loving wife Betty, who keep falling asleep during the not very exciting memoirs.
The book ends with all the loose ends of the lives of the various characters tied up and resolutions come to, as McCall Smith meant this to be the end of the serialization. But the public wanted more of the series and there may be more 44 Scotland Street stories. Seventy-four down, 26 to go.