44 Scotland Street Series
September 5, 2023

A Guide to the 44 Scotland Street Series

From the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency to Isabel Dalhousie, Alexander McCall Smith is famous for crafting warm and witty series beloved by fans around the world. One of his most charming series, 44 Scotland Street, tells the story of this cozy Scottish neighborhood’s residents, including the star of the show, Bertie, a remarkably precocious boy–just ask his mother.

The latest installment, The Enigma of Garlic is now available, so we thought it would be a good time to brush up on the other 44 Scotland Street books. To make this easier, we’ve created a guide to the full series! Prepare yourself for a few chuckles and cozy reads that will brighten up your day.

44 Scotland Street

The first novel in Alexander McCall Smith’s beloved series introduces us to Bertie and the wide cast of characters who live on 44 Scotland Street. There’s Pat, a twenty-year-old who has recently moved into a flat with Bruce, an athletic young man with a keen awareness of his own appearance. Their neighbor, Domenica, is an eccentric and insightful widow. Love triangles, a lost painting, intriguing new friends, and an encounter with a famous Scottish crime writer are just a few of the ingredients that add to this delightful and witty portrait of Edinburgh society.

Espresso Tales

All our favorite denizens of a Georgian townhouse in Edinburgh are back in the series’ second book. Bertie the immensely talented six-year-old is now enrolled in kindergarten, and much to his dismay, has been clad in pink overalls for his first day of class. Bruce has lost his job as a surveyor, and between admiring glances in the mirror, is contemplating becoming a wine merchant. Pat is embarking on a new life at Edinburgh University and perhaps on a new relationship, courtesy of Domenica, her witty and worldly-wise neighbor. Full of McCall Smith’s gentle humor and sympathy for his characters, Espresso Tales is an affectionate portrait of a city and its people.

Love Over Scotland

This just in from Edinburgh: the complicated lives of the denizens of 44 Scotland Street are becoming no simpler. Domenica Macdonald has left for the Malacca Straits to conduct a perilous anthropological study of pirate households. Bertie is still enduring psychotherapy, but his burden is lightened by a junior orchestra’s trip to Paris, where he makes some interesting new friends. Back in Edinburgh, there is romance for Pat with a handsome young man called Wolf, until she begins to see the attractions of the more prosaically named Matthew. Teeming with McCall Smith’s wonderful wit and charming depictions of Edinburgh, Love Over Scotland is another beautiful ode to a city and its people that continue to fascinate this astounding author.

The World According to Bertie

There is never a quiet moment on 44 Scotland Street. In The World According to Bertie, Pat deals with the reappearance of Bruce, which has her heart skipping–and not in a pleasant way. As usual, Big Lou is still looking for love and handing out coffee and advice to the always contemplative Matthew. And Bertie, the beleaguered Italian-speaking six-year-old prodigy, now has a little brother, Ulysses, who Bertie hopes will help distract his pushy mother, Irene. Beautifully observed, cleverly detailed, The World According to Bertie is classic McCall Smith and a treat for his avid fans as well as his first-time readers.

The Unbearable Lightness of Scones

The fifth book in the 44 Scotland Street series, The Unbearable Lightness of Scones, finds Bertie still troubled by his rather overbearing mother, Irene, but seeking his escape in the Cub Scouts. Matthew is rising to the challenge of married life with newfound strength and resolve, while Domenica epitomizes the loneliness of the long-distance intellectual. With his customary deftness, Alexander McCall Smith once again brings us an absorbing and entertaining tale of some of Scotland’s most quirky and beloved characters–all set in the beautiful, stoic city of Edinburgh.

The Importance of Being Seven

After seven years and five books, Bertie is–finally!–about to turn seven. But one afternoon he mislays his meddling mother, Irene, and learns a valuable lesson: wish-fulfillment can be a dangerous business. Angus and Domenica contemplate whether to give in to romance on holiday in Italy, and even usually down-to-earth Big Lou is overheard discussing cosmetic surgery. Funny, warm, and heartfelt as ever, The Importance of Being Seven offers fresh and wise insights into philosophy and fraternity among Edinburgh’s most lovable residents.

Bertie Plays the Blues

If you don’t want to start the series from the very beginning, this is a good place to jump in, since our friends of 44 Scotland Street seem to all be in the midst of new beginnings. New parents Matthew and Elspeth must muddle through the difficulties of raising their triplets. Angus and Domenica are newly engaged. Big Lou has begun the search for a new flame, boldly exploring the new world of online dating and coming up with an Elvis impersonator on the first try. And then there’s Bertie, who has been thinking that he might want to start over with a new family and so puts himself up for adoption on eBay. With his signature charm and gentle wit, Alexander McCall Smith vividly portrays the lives of Edinburgh’s most unique and beloved characters.

Sunshine on Scotland Street

From social media to the finer points of human behavior, this episode of Alexander McCall Smith’s popular series provides an entertaining commentary on a small corner of modern life in Edinburgh where, contrary to received wisdom, the sun nearly always shines. Angus Lordie and Domenica Macdonald are finally tying the knot. Unsurprisingly, Angus is not quite prepared. The long-suffering Bertie knows firsthand how stringent his mother’s rules can be, and he resolves to help Cyril set off on an adventure. Meanwhile, Big Lou becomes a viral Internet sensation, and the incurable narcissist Bruce meets his match in the form of a doppelganger neighbor, who proposes a plan that could change both their lives.

The Revolving Door of Life

Things are looking up for seven-year-old Bertie Pollock in the tenth novel in this series. The arrival of his spirited grandmother and the absence of his meddlesome mother–who is currently running a book club in a Bedouin harem (don’t ask)–bring unforeseen blessings. Meanwhile, surprises await Scotland Street’s grown-ups. Matthew makes a discovery that could be a major windfall for his family, but also presents a worrisome dilemma. Pat learns a secret about her father’s fiancĂ©e that may shake up her family. Alexander McCall Smith guides us through the risks and rewards of friendship, love, and family with his usual inimitable wit and irresistible charm.

The Bertie Project

Bertie’s mother, Irene, returns from the Middle East to discover that, in her absence, her son has been exposed to the worst of evils–television shows, ice cream parlors, and even unsanctioned art at the National Portrait Gallery. Her wrath descends on Bertie’s long-suffering father, Stuart. But Stuart has found a reason to spend more time outside of the house and seems to have a new spring in his step. And as Irene resumes work on what she calls her Bertie Project, reinstating Bertie’s Italian lessons, yoga classes, and psychotherapy, Bertie begins to hatch a project of his own–one that promises freedom.

A Time of Love and Tartan

When Pat accepts her narcissistic ex-boyfriend Bruce’s invitation for coffee, she has no idea of the complications in her romantic and professional life that will follow. Meanwhile, Matthew, her boss at the art gallery, attracts the attention of the police after a misunderstanding at the local bookstore.

Whether caused by small things such as a cup of coffee and a book, or major events such as Stuart’s application for promotion and his wife Irene’s decision to pursue a PhD in Aberdeen, change is coming to Scotland Street. But for three seven-year-old boys–Bertie, Ranald, and Big Lou’s foster son, Finlay–it also means getting a glimpse of perfect happiness.

The Peppermint Tea Chronicles

Summer has come to Scotland Street, and the long days have prompted its denizens to engage in flights of fancy. With the domineering Irene off pursuing academic challenges, Stuart and Bertie are free to indulge in summer fun. Stuart reconnects with an old acquaintance over refreshing peppermint tea while Bertie takes his friend Ranald Braveheart Macpherson to the circus. But their trip to the big top becomes rather more than the pleasant diversion they were hoping for. Once again, Scotland Street teems with the daily triumphs and challenges of those who call it home, and provides a warm, wise, and witty chronicle of the affairs in this corner of the world.

A Promise of Ankles

For the residents of 44 Scotland Street, life in Edinburgh’s intriguing New Town is a thing to be relished. After all, there are new faces to excite Domenica’s anthropological imagination, precious moments with his triplets for Matthew to savor, and the prospect of a trip to the promised land of Glasgow for young Bertie. But there are mysteries that need solving too. Could Angus Lordie’s dog, Cyril have unearthed a Neanderthal skull? How will the patrons of Big Lou’s cafe react to the menu’s imminent culinary transformation? The stories of this wonderfully vibrant cast may take unexpected turns, but the warmth and humor at Scotland’s most recognizable address will ultimately affirm the joy life brings us all.

Love in the Time of Bertie

In the microcosm of 44 Scotland Street, all of life’s richness is found in the glorious goings-on of its residents. There’s Domenica, whose anthropological training has honed her observations of her neighbors; Matthew, whose growing triplets are more than a handful; Bruce, whose challenge as ever is thinking of anything but himself; and Big Lou, who may just have found her shot at romance. And of course, there’s young Bertie Pollock, whose starry-eyed explorations of Edinburgh’s New Town are a touching reminder that life itself is an adventure and there’s joy to be found wherever you choose to look.

The Enigma of Garlic

Last, but not least, the latest book in the 44 Scotland Street series, The Enigma of Garlic, is now available! It’s the most anticipated event of the decade–Big Lou and Fat Bob’s wedding–and everyone is invited! But the relative peace and tranquillity of 44 Scotland Street is about to be disrupted. Domineering Irene is set to return for a two-month stay, Bruce Anderson’s new-found outlook on life is being put by the test as he prepares to leave his creature comforts for the monastic simplicity of Pluscarden Abbey, and young Bertie is being shipped off to a summer camp. Alexander McCall Smith’s delightfully witty, wise and sometimes surreal comedy spirals out in surprising ways in this new installment, but its heart remains where it has always been, at the center of life in Edinburgh’s New Town.