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The Careful Use of Compliments: An Isabel Dalhousie Novel (Isabel Dalhousie Mysteries) Hardcover – August 7, 2007


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Product Details

  • Series: Isabel Dalhousie Mysteries
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1st edition (August 7, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037542301X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375423017
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #319,320 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A Message from Author Alexander McCall Smith

Three great places to visit in Scotland:

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh
This gallery, housed in an extraordinary red sandstone building topped with spikes and twirls, contains a pictorial record of Scots over the ages--the handsome, the deluded, the unfortunate, the inventive--they’re all there.

Falkland Palace
A lovely little palace in lush countryside, where the father of Mary Queen of Scots turned his face to the wall and predicted the end of the Stuart dynasty.

The Isle of Muck
You reach this charming little island on a tiny boat. There is nothing to do on the island but to contemplate its beauty--and its name.

Note to readers:
I would like to thank you for all your support. If it weren’t for the encouragement this has given me, my long conversation with Mma Ramotswe would have ended far earlier. As it is, I feel that we still have quite a bit to hear from her – as we do, too, from Isabel Dalhousie, heroine of my Edinburgh novels, and all the denizens of 44 Scotland Street. Each of these series will have a new novel written this year, and I am also planning to revisit the three German professors of the Portuguese Irregular verbs series. I was in the United States in the spring this year and will return in the Fall. These visits give me the chance to meet many readers of these books, so if we have not yet met, perhaps we shall do so before too long. And if we do, please do not hesitate to give me your views on what should happen to the characters in the future: all (reasonable) suggestions gratefully accepted!

--Alexander McCall Smith


From Publishers Weekly

Best known for the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, bestseller Smith shows he's just as adept at exploring mysteries of the heart in his fourth book to feature Edinburgh philosopher-sleuth Isabel Dalhousie (after The Right Attitude to Rain). Isabel has recently become a mother, but she has an ambiguous relationship with her son's father, Jamie, whose attempts to formalize their connection have been unsuccessful. Their ties are further strained by Jamie's ex-girlfriend, Cat, who not only still harbors strong feelings for him but is Isabel's niece. Isabel must also deal with petty academic politics aimed at depriving her of her position as editor of the Review of Applied Ethics. Smith throws in a mystery subplot—did an obscure but talented Scottish painter drown, commit suicide or fall victim to foul play?—but the resolution of that plot thread is more noteworthy for its insights into Isabel's humanistic and optimistic philosophy than for any surprise twists. Once again, Smith displays his skill at illustrating subtle nuances of human nature. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

Alexander McCall Smith was born in what is now Zimbabwe and taught law at the University of Botswana. He is now Professor of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh. He has written more than fifty books, including a number of specialist titles, but is best known for The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, which has achieved bestseller status on four continents. In 2004 he was awarded British Book Awards Author of the Year and Booksellers Association Author of the Year. He lives in Scotland, where in his spare time he is a bassoonist in the RTO (Really Terrible Orchestra).

Customer Reviews

Isabel Dalhousie novels are as good as McCall Smith's Precious Ramotswe novels (Ladies #1 Detective Agency.)
C. A. Carter
Now though that Isabel and Jamie were the proud parents of a baby boy, Charlie, the opinions of others mattered very little to her any longer.
Jeanne Tassotto
As always, she debates moral arguments of all sorts in her mind and tries to practice being the best person she can.
Christina Lockstein

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

111 of 114 people found the following review helpful By Kimberly Roeder on August 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The moment I finished this book I wanted to share my enjoyment in it. I've never felt inclined to write a review before despite my constant reading. There are many other impassioned readers and I trust that they will write about those books they find deeply moving. Reading this book has been that way for me. I read the earlier Dalhousie books because I trusted the author, and was waiting to see where he would take me. I found them quietly enjoyable, with interesting themes, but the heroine sometimes felt restricted and thin. I now feel rewarded for my patience.
This novel succeeded in bringing to life thoughts and ideas more engagingly and profoundly for me than any of the previous volumes in this series. I've read all of Alexander McCall Smith's other books, and enjoyed them as gentle and sweet tales. I laughed out loud at his German professors and smiled when his African detective came to her elegant understanding of human nature. I've enjoyed all the stories about Scotland, precisely because the author demonstrates such an understanding of human foibles, while showing affection for his characters. This volume is the first one that touched me on a deeper level. I still enjoyed the discussion of philosophy, but finally believe that Isobel is experiencing life, and through her I felt joy.
This latest book of Mr. McCall Smith's, "The Careful Use of Compliments" combines some of my favorite themes from his other series. The machinations of the intellectually insecure professor, the wonderful observations of human nature in all of its glory, and the posing of a mystery to be solved are all done cleverly.
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59 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Marco Antonio Abarca VINE VOICE on October 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is the fourth book in the Isabel Dalhousie series. Large sections of the novels, consist of Isabel's internal dialogue. As readers, we get the opportunity to experience the world as seen through the lens of the moral philosopher. Isabel's inner world is as at the very heart of the novels.

However, in this fourth novel, Isabel's world has radically changed. She now has a son and a new lover. She is no longer the middle aged philosopher who lives alone in a large house. Yet, the novel continues to be centered on Isabel's internal life. There are now two new people who are integral to her daily life. Yet, there is only the slightest interaction between Isabel, Charlie and Jamie. They are almost completely absent from her internal life. This lack of day to day emotional and physical interaction, makes this story less believable to me.

Finally, I would recommend the Audio CD to anyone with an interest in this book. As an American, we rarely get the chance to hear the full range of Scottish accents. When I think of Scottish accents, the stereotypical Scottie from Star Trek immediately pops into mind. Davina Porter is such a talented narrator that she is able to recreate the many different dialects that one finds in Scotland. The rich differences between county and city and educated and working class accents are a real pleasure to hear. Davina Porter's fine narration alone, adds another star to the book.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Darci G. Brown on August 31, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book is quite the page-turner. The story focuses on a few main points: Isabel as a mother, Cat and Isabel's strained relationship, a painting which appears a fraud, and Isabel's editorial position which has always seemed a certainty and now suddenly disappears. Everything seems finely meshed together in this story--with change being the overall theme. How we react to and recover from major changes in our lives...this is what Isabel does--react and recover. The relationship that Isabel has with Jamie seems perfectly portrayed here as one in which neither person says exactly what they mean or truly trusts the other fully enough to be honest in a situation where there is a question as to why one remains. Their conversations go from seemingly flowing to almost painful, especially when their discussion involves Cat. This book is fascinating and the author really does a fine job of fleshing out this character. She questions everything...herself, the life she has chosen, big debates and little moments of pondering...Isabel is ever the philosopher and just when I think I fully understand her she does something that amazes me and explains it all away until I see all sides to every issue brought up. That's the wonder of these books. There is never a clear cut black and white issue. We may be on one side or another but everything is weighed and weighted...it's really extraordinary and as always a fascinating read!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Bill Jordin on October 20, 2008
Format: Paperback
The Careful Use of Compliments (2007) is the fourth mystery novel in the Isabel Dalhousie series, following The Right Attitude to Rain. In the previous volume, Isabel Dalhousie found a lover and broke up an engagement. She also became pregnant.

In this novel, Andrew McInnes was a painter who lived and died on the island of Jura. Isabel has a McInnes painting along her stairway. Then she sees an offering of a larger piece on the same subject and goes to view it at the auction house.

Guy Peploe is a friend of Isabel and the co-owner of an art gallery. She had seen him at the auction and later he calls her with news of another McInnes painting that he has recently acquired. Isabel goes to view it and believes it to be a McInnes work.

Professor Lettuce -- chairman of editorial board for the Review of Applied Ethics -- writes a letter to Isabel stating that she is being replaced by Christopher Dove at the end of the year. He first mentions the increase in subscriptions under her purview as the editor of the Review and finishes with a hand-written note about the recent death of a reviewer. Isabel decides Lettuce is feeling rather guilty about his contributions to this putsch.

Christopher Dove comes to visit Isabel to discuss the transition. While he is there, her niece Cat comes to return the sweater that Isabel had left at her flat. Dove and Cat have a very friendly conversation and Dove stays over the weekend.

In this story, Isabel decides to bid on the first painting, but something about it puzzles her. She allows herself to be outbid by a neighbor, Walter Buie. She also has some questions about the second painting.
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