When twenty-year-old Pat rents a room from handsome and cocky Bruce, she inherits some delightfully colourful neighbours: Domenica, an insightful and eccentric widow; Bertie, a five-year-old who’s mastered both saxophone and Italian; and Irene, his overbearing mother.

Pat’s new job at a gallery seems easy enough. Her boss spends most of his time drinking coffee in a local cafe, and Pat’s duties are light. But then they discover that one of the paintings may be an undiscovered work of a renowned Scottish artist, and it seems that one troublesome customer may be in on the secret…

In this entertaining and witty portrait of Edinburgh society McCall Smith introduces a range of interesting themes, from the absurd delusions of some forms of modern psychology to the comical vulgarity of self-absorbed vanity and the shallowness of physical attraction. But best of all he illuminates the unexpected depth that can be found in a host of unusual characters.

Good for a light, entertaining read, 44 Scotland Street also contains a humorous dose of wisdom.

Clare Cannon

Clare Cannon lives in Sydney where she is editor of The Good Reading Guide and manager of Portico Books,...