The story revolves around the comings and goings at no. 44 Scotland Street, a fictitious building in a real street in Edinburgh. Immediately recognisable are the Edinburgh chartered surveyor, stalwart of the Conservative Association, who dreams of membership of Scotland's most exclusive golf club. There is pushy Stockbridge mother and her prodigiously talented five-year-old son, who is making good progress with the saxophone and with his Italian. Then there is Domenica Mandonald who is that type of Edinburgh lady who sees herself as a citizen of a broader intellectual world.
McCall Smith tackles issues of trust and honesty, snobbery and hypocrisy, love and loss, but all with great lightness of touch. Clever, elegant and funny, this is a novel that provides huge entertainment but which is underpinned by the moral dilemmas of everyday life that the characters struggle to resolve.