Back in October, I was excited to learn that a book 11 in Alexander McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street series existed. Finishing book 10 in September had left me feeling melancholy. I’d thought it was the last one. To find out just a few weeks later that an eleventh book existed felt a little like finding out a friend who moved away is coming back to town.
It’s the first proper series for adults I can remember reading. While I’ve read YA and middle grade series, my adult book preferences are almost always stand-alones. I’ve read mystery novels featuring the same lead character, M. C. Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth. But it’s not a series in an interconnected narrative sense. Some plot points carry over, but each book is self-contained. I’m reading them in order, but it’s not necessary to understanding each book. I can’t say this about the 44 Scotland Street series because it’s so much about the evolving relationships among characters.
The novels are set in Edinburgh and follow a diverse cast as they work and live in and around the city. In the first book, they’re mostly residents of the same building, 44 Scotland Street (hence the title). As the series continues, though, the geographic scope expands. Characters move out of the building or even the city. New characters are introduced. Old relationships evolve, as they do, and new ones develop. There are a few surprises, some hilarious, others heartbreaking. What mostly propels me through the books isn’t the events themselves. It’s the reassuring narrative voice, the wisdom I find in the characters’ meditations on their experiences, and the fascinating peek into every day life in an historic city. Over time, I’ve come to feel deeply connected to these characters and to care very much about what happens to them. This is as true with characters I don’t like as with those I do.
I preordered book 11 a week before the release date (February 7). This was totally unnecessary, of course, since it becomes available for download the day of the release. What, really, is the point of pre-ordering an e-book? It’s not like it’s going to sell out. It was a sentimental decision, like laying out an outfit the night before a class reunion. I couldn’t wait to reunite with these characters again.
Do you prefer to read series or stand-alone books? Do you have a series that you love? Have you noticed a difference to how you relate to characters in a stand-alone book vs. a series?