Sunshine on Scotland Street, By Alexander McCall Smith

All human life, plus Bertie the dog

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The Independent Culture

Alexander McCall Smith is a prolific, popular and wonderfully peculiar writer. His capacity to deliver quality new instalments for five fictional series is unrivalled by any other modern writer.

Sunshine on Scotland Street is the eighth novel in the 44 Scotland Street series, and fans will not be disappointed. All the usual folk are in there, getting on with their surprisingly captivating lives amid Edinburgh's Georgian town houses.

Café owner Big Lou is still looking for love, but the big day has finally come for the brilliantly boring Angus "anecdote for every occasion" Lordie, who finds himself in a tricky situation on the morning of his wedding to social anthropologist Domenica.

Disaster is averted by his dutiful best man, Matthew, the nice but dull gallery owner who has become the father of triplet boys: Rognvald, Tobermory and Fergus. Inexplicably, a Danish fly-on-the-wall documentary maker wants Matthew and his family to be the subject of his next film. It doesn't last long because Matthew is so boring, but the rejection he feels could help set up book number nine, perhaps. Big Lou, however, becomes an accidental internet hit when her Danish film debut goes viral.

Back to the wedding, and my favourite character Cyril. Life for Cyril, Angus's much loved, beer-drinking dog, will never be the same, as Domenica is unlikely to tolerate his helping himself to chops and bacon from the fridge. He has a traumatic three weeks being passed from home to home while the happy couple honeymoon in Jamaica. He was meant to stay with little Bertie, only six but already long-suffering because of his psychotherapy-obsessed mother Irene, who has a bad word to say about everyone and everything, especially dogs. She makes Bertie sell stickmen shaped carrots at the school fair because anything sugary would be akin to poison. It takes all of Cyril's will power to not bite her snobbish ankles.

Bruce the chino-wearing narcissist meets his match, literally, but will his body double end up friend or foe?

McCall Smith's charming, quirky and exasperating characters make you smile in spite of yourself. And this is just what you need during the summer holidays when you don't want to think too hard, or can't think too hard because the small people have been released from school for six weeks and keep interrupting.

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