For as joyful as the ending as of the last 44 Scotland Street novel was, the newest one reverses all the gains.
Much of The Revolving Door of Life (out in the UK now, in the US in February, 2016) still sees Bertie enjoying life. He still doesn't have a Swiss Army knife but with his grandmother's arrival (there to help in Irene's absence), many of his dreams come true. Even just a meal with a woman who knows the simple things a seven year old boy desires ends in our precocious Bertie thrilled for what he could so easily lose:
Bertie looked at his grandmother across the table. She smiled back at him, raising her glass in toast. "Here's mud in your eye, Bertie," she said. "Happy Landings, my darling."
Bertie looked at her fondly. In his short life, he had never been so happy, and he felt now he should tell her that. But what words could he use to convey what he felt; the sense of freedom that seemed to have come over him, the sense that somehow the boundaries of the world, previously so constrained, now embraced possibilities of which previously he had only dreamed? Three words came to the fore - three words that were not so much a product of the mind, but of the soul. "Please stay forever," he muttered.
She heard him, and her heart gave a leap. The young believe that forever is possible; the old know otherwise.
But the ending of the novel isn't as sunny and hopeful as the last. I am happy to have read this newest installment, of course, but didn't find myself as emotionally involved in the various stories as I have been in other recent McCall Smith offerings. This is quite likely because I've gone a bit overboard lately, and because we've recently arrived at autumn, a time during which I gravitate towards the darker stories. Though Irene is as dark as they come in her own unique way, it's probably a good thing that it'll be a while before the next 44 Scotland collection so that I may take a breath.