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The Charming Quirks of Others: An Isabel Dalhousie Novel Hardcover – Bargain Price, October 12, 2010

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Product Details

  • Series: Isabel Dalhousie
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon (October 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307379175
  • ASIN: B00AK2NOP6
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,014,302 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

While Smith's seventh novel featuring Scottish philosopher and woman of means Isabel Dalhousie (after The Lost Art of Gratitude) doesn't break new ground, the author's many fans will be more than satisfied to follow the small events of Isabel's life, in particular her struggle to come to terms with her own imperfections. Much to Isabel's dismay, Prue, a cellist with a terminal illness who's a professional colleague of her bassoonist fiancé, Jamie, has been making ever greater demands on the good-natured Jamie. An angry Isabel eventually accuses Jamie of sleeping with Prue. Meanwhile, Isabel agrees to dig into the background of three candidates for headmaster at an Edinburgh boys' school after an anonymous letter claims that one of them has a skeleton in his closet. If chance more than a logical strategy leads Isabel to resolve this issue, her investigation leads her to valuable insights into human nature. As usual, crisp, often funny prose complements the author's limitless reserve of good will and understanding of people in general.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The seventh entry in McCall Smith’s series featuring moral philosopher Isabel Dalhousie finds the fortysomething Edinburgh resident drawn into an investigation of three candidates vying for the headmaster position at a local boys’ school. It seems that the selection committee has received an anonymous letter alleging that one of the three candidates has engaged in behavior that would cause the school serious embarrassment. But which one? As Isabel makes discreet inquiries about the candidates’ backgrounds, she learns that her much younger lover, Jamie, is anxious to give up his bachelor pad, marry Isabel, and move in with her and their toddler son, Charlie. But Isabel suspects that Jamie is not telling her everything about his sudden desire to make a mad dash for the altar. For Isabel, no decision is straightforward; there are always complications and nuances that must be given their proper due. With Isabel’s shrewd and frequently funny assessments of people and McCall Smith’s heady quotations from W. H. Auden, among others, the Isabel Dalhousie series continues to instruct and amuse. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: McCall Smith is best known for his No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novels, but the Isabel Dalhousie series, showcasing the author’s native Scotland, also has its devotees. --Joanne Wilkinson

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

The idea of making a moral philosopher a character, indeed the mainstay of a series, is very daring.
Mary E. Sibley
Isabel doesn't really have any problems, her Scotland isn't all that charming, and the other characters aren't terribly interesting.
Donald Mitchell
I love Alexander McCall Smith and have enjoyed all of the Isabel Dalhousie and Ladies Detective Agency books very much.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Debra Schiff VINE VOICE on October 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
If you're a fan of Alexander McCall Smith, as I am, you may notice in The Charming Quirks of Others that Isabel Dalhousie is turning into an insecure, lighter-weight, Scottish sketch of Mme Ramotswe (of his Ladies' Detective Agency series). The "detective" work she does has become a much smaller part of the novel. The story lines in general are less developed and detailed than previous books in the series as well as by the author in general. There also are significant parts of stories that are treated with back of the envelope resolutions by the end of the book (such as the one with Lettuce) -- an unwelcome inconsistency with his previous works. And, well, while I hate to say it, Isabel comes off as whiny in this one.

I'm glad that Isabel is with Jamie full-time now, her interactions with him in this novel make her seem less of the independent woman she has been in the previous books. McCall Smith also has cut Jamie a bit thin as a character. I was dismayed to discover that the relationship Isabel has with her niece has deteriorated into jealous sniping as well. The bits about Charlie are satisfying and realistic.

There are the customary nods to artists of Edinburgh and a few key locals tossed in, but not as many as you would expect of an Alexander McCall Smith novel. Usually, there are lengthy discussions of the country's gorgeous landscape, and of the islands, but there were few mentions of it in this book.

Overall, I was disappointed with this one, as I have of his latest books. Sadly, he set the bar very high in his earlier novels and is now falling a bit short.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Sharon Isch TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
If you've read the previous six Isabel Dalhousie novels, you know what to expect--Isabel will get herself involved in an investigation of some sort, McCall Smith will use his philosopher-heroine to philosophize amusingly on this and that, there'll be plot threads involving her lover, Jamie, their toddler son, Charlie, their housekeeper, Grace, and Isabel's niece, Cat, the delicatessen owner with bad taste in boyfriends. This is definitely one of those series best begun at the beginning. In this case with "The Sunday Philosophy Club."

This time Isobel lets herself get roped into trying to find out which of three finalists for the job of headmaster at a boys' school is the subject of an anonymous letter. Meanwhile, she finds herself caught in a bit of a dilemma involving her longtime nemeses, Professor Lettuce and Christopher Dove; a potential "other woman" sets her cap for Jamie and will not be dissuaded; Charlie learns a bit of basic sentence structure and acquires a taste for marzipan pigs; and yes, as always, Cat has a new man in her life (and he just happens to be one of the contenders for that headmaster position) plus, she's developed a "spot" that requires a biopsy. Most of these story lines will either solve themselves or just peter out along the way.

I'm getting the sense McCall Smith is running out of steam on this series.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Terri J. Rice TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I became a fan of Alexander McCall-Smith with his No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series, and also The Portuguese Irregular Verbs Series. I was not a fan of The 44 Scotland Street Series.

This is my first Isabel Dalhousie book and I like the character very much. Her obsessive introspection is insightful, "'We don't always see our own faults with crystal clarity,' said Isabel. 'But since you put me on the spot, I suppose I would have to say that I tend to over-complicate matters- it's my training. And I can be nosy.'"

She is a philosopher and dissects people's personalities with precision and accuracy in a most delightful way, "Jamie looked at her in astonishment. 'Isabel! How do you know that? You haven't got a shred - not a shred- of evidence.'
She just felt it, and told him so. She did not need evidence for hunches- that was what hunches were all about."

This is very easy going light prose with a bit of mystery thrown in. Isabel is asked to help with the hiring of a new headmaster at a local boys' school because there is a possible bad apple in the group of three candidates.

The mailman admits to Isabel that every now and then he can't help it when he delivers a post card but to see a bit of the content. One particular delivery has him wondering if perhaps seriously foul play has occurred. The mention of this to Isabel, piques her interest.

Isabel's live in boyfriend and father to her child, Charlie, is the former boyfriend of her niece, Cat making for an occasional uncomfortable situation.

But overall, Isabel's life is a comfortable, happy and for the most part, completely trouble free which is why I think she appeals to so many. It is enjoyable to read a well written book about a normal, happy, carefree life.

It reminds me a bit of the Miss Read series, only better.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Cloggie Downunder TOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The Charming Quirks of Others is the 7th in the Isabel Dalhousie series by Alexander McCall Smith. Isabel has quite a bit on her plate: getting another edition of the Review of Applied Ethics published; looking into a poison-pen letter making accusations about applicants for the principal's position of an illustrious boys' school; dealing with a pretty cellist who has taken a fancy to Jamie; deciding whether to publish an unsolicited review by Professor Lettuce of Professor Dove's latest book; and, not the least, organising her own wedding. As always, Isabel manages to jump to unfounded conclusions whilst being her unpredictable, clever, kind and occasionally exasperating self. On the way, she touches on book reviewers, verb tenses, forgiveness of oneself, politics, punishment, hatred, skateboarders, gossip magazines and ancestors, and gives us an excellent definition of vulgar curiosity. Isabel manages to show some insight into her tendency to misunderstand situations, and towards the end of this novel, has a Mma Ramotswe moment when she reflects on her love for her country. McCall Smith has an uncanny ability to write from a woman's perspective, and many of the conversations his characters have are filled with wisdom and humour. Another thoroughly enjoyable instalment in the Isabel Dalhousie story.
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