We have come to love McCall Smith for the characters he has created in his beloved series, i.e.: the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, the Isabel Dalhousie series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs, the 44 Scotland Street series and the Corduroy Mansions series.
This may be different as one of a kind, or it may start a new series. Who knows? At any rate, it’s the story of four passengers on the Edinburgh-London train: three men and one woman. McCall Smith quotes Auden’s Night Mail to show the poetic swing of a train: “This is the Night Mail crossing the border/ Bringing the cheque and the postal order.”
Sure enough, as the train winds down the North Sea and then dips inland, each of the passengers tells bits of his or her life through incidents of a love affair. The men are Scots, English and American; the woman came from Perth, Australia. As they rock down to London, McCall Smith shows how the train brings out that part of us that outweighs any other – our need for love – to give it and to receive it in that familiar battle that all of us fight with loneliness.
“The Scotsman” calls Trains and Lovers the best thing McCall Smith has written so far.
Review by Anne McDougall