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The Sunday Philosophy Club : An Isabel Dalhousie Mystery Hardcover – September 28, 2004

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The Sunday Philosophy Club : An Isabel Dalhousie Mystery + The Right Attitude to Rain: An Isabel Dalhousie Novel (Isabel Dalhousie Mysteries)
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Product Details

  • Series: Isabel Dalhousie Mysteries
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon (September 28, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375422986
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375422980
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (228 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #554,911 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Murder and moral obligation mingle in this whimsical new series from the author of the smash hit The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. McCall Smith's new heroine is Scottish-American philosopher Isabel Dalhousie, a single woman of independent means who edits the esteemed Review of Applied Ethics and presides over the titular club. When Isabel witnesses fund manager Mark Fraser fall from a balcony after a performance at an Edinburgh concert hall, she feels obliged to investigate the gentleman's demise. "I was the last person that young man saw," Dalhousie tells her beloved niece, Cat. "The last person. And don't you think that the last person you see on this earth owes you something?" Given her affinity for applied ethics, questions of conscience are a daily concern for Isabel, and the more she thinks about Fraser's fall, the less accidental it seems. Among those who might have pushed him: his shifty roommate, his colleague's scheming spouse and a disgruntled broker with a craving for cash. Fans of Botswanan heroine Precious Ramotswe are sure to embrace Scotsman McCall Smith's plucky new protagonist, who leads a cast of delightfully quirky characters that includes Toby, a dapper bachelor with a dubious understanding of fidelity, and Grace, Dalhousie's morally upright housekeeper, who sizes up society's reprobates in two syllables or less. Scotland's climate may be misty and cool, but McCall Smith's charming prose warms every page of this winning series debut.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

The Dalhousie series is “sure to be a second hit franchise,” notes The New York Times. That may be, but it’s currently suffering inevitable comparisons with the popular No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. Sunday Club rambles along just as slowly and develops its sense of time and place just as whimsically. Still, something—maybe the charm?—is missing. This time, McCall Smith, a professor of medical law, examines both a mysterious death and moral responsibility. Isabel’s ethical musings may bore some of us shallow folk, though McCall Smith’s psychological insight fascinates. And, while critics liked Isabel, they didn’t heap on the effusive praise they’ve reserved for the charming Precious (see The Full Cupboard of Life, **** July/Aug 2004). So, sit back, take a deep breath, and wait for the second installment … what’s the rush?

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

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

Author Alexander McCall Smith gained huge popularity with his No. 1 Ladies' Detective series.
Perhaps the biggest problem is that McCall Smith seems determined to tackle the moral questions and ethical dilemmas of this book.
E. A Solinas
The end gave me the impression that the author got bored with the book and just patched on an ending.
Orinoco Womble

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Darci G. Brown on June 21, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I read this book without having read any of the author's prior books. I know that some have remarked that this was boring or slow but I found it to be neither of these things. I was thoroughly entertained by it. I loved Isabel's mind--which is why I found it so difficult to understand the ending and how she came about feeling the way she did. I won't spoil the ending but I will say that it leaves one with an utterly unending need to discuss the philosophy of justice. Throughout the book I felt as though I were watching "Murder She Wrote" with a younger woman in the lead. Isabel is profound, comical and thought-provoking. All of the characters are well-rounded and completely believable. I can't say enough good things about this book. It's hard to find well-written books that are profound, entertaining and suspenseful--read it and discuss it with your friends.
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56 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Doiron on September 20, 2005
Format: Paperback
It seems to matter not how much I celebrated AM Smith's work or how often in re-reading any of his Botswana tales, I reveled in the homogeneity of his crafted prose and the perfected simplicity of his character's emotions, none of this translated into an appreciation for The Sunday Philosophy Club.

The characters are still clean, crisp and open to the reader's inspection, but the prose is much too languid.

Worse, though, the writer just couldn't seem to keep his mitts off the story and leave it to the reader to find his way through. I had to put the book down and walk away with each interruption. And so obsequious! I kept feeling him, peering over my shoulder, asking "Did you get that," or "Wasn't that clever of me?"

Now, mind, I do reciprocate Mr. Smith's concern for dwindling ethics, civility and taste; but that's better left to a book where I choose to read his thoughts on that subject, it's simply not germane to a yarn preoccupied with Isabel, busily poking her nose into other people's business.

Mr. Smith also seems to suffer from what I call the English Mystery Writer's syndrome. Ninety percent of the energy and craft go into the opening and build of the story; then, as the writer nears the end of his prescribed length, he slaps up a climax and conclusion with apparent disdain for the reader's investment in the story or the characters. I am certain he can do much better.

Harsh, yes. But it's the reaction of a loyal, avid reader of a very competent wordsmith who's gone off the rails for a bit. I can only imaging what Grace might have said, if she were asked.

I'll try one more, but mind the gap!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By G. Messersmith VINE VOICE on August 30, 2006
Format: Paperback
I found this book delightful! I liked and identified with the main character, Isabel Dalhousie, especially as she sought to do the right thing even when all others advised her against any action. The book opens with Isabel attending a concert and a young man falls from the balcony of the concert hall to his death. It is ruled an accident but something keeps nagging at Isabel that there was more to it than that. Isabel uses her talent as a philospher to help her uncover the truth behind the young man's death.

The characters in the book are amusing, self-centered, and true-to-life in many ways. Isabel is a well drawn character with real flaws as are the other major characters in this novel. The writing is very detailed which made me feel like I was actually in Edinburgh. Isabel was my favorite character of course but her housekeeper Grace comes in second. What a delight it was to hear what came from Grace's mouth.

This book is not as light or easy as his Ladies' Detective Agency books but it is a wonderful read nonetheless. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I look forward to reading his second book in this series.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Horberry on August 8, 2005
Format: Paperback
As a former resident of Edinburgh (not too far from where Isabel lives), I can vouch for the skill with which Mr McCall brings the setting to life. And I found Isabel's philosophical musings thought-provoking and entertaining. As a mood and brain piece, therefore, it was evocative and engaging. But the mystery aspect of the tale was badly let down by the ending: flat, dreich and damp as an October afternoon in Edinburgh's Meadows. The run-up had promised so much more, and I'd hoped for a really challenging, mind-stretching revelation that would have made sense of some of the minor characters' actions. It doesn't happen.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on October 15, 2004
Format: Hardcover
In his new mystery series, Alexander McCall Smith has moved a long way from his comfort zone --- nearly 6,000 miles in fact, a number that represents the distance from Gaborone, Botswana to Edinburgh, Scotland. Botswana, as many readers surely know, is the setting for Smith's immensely popular No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series while Edinburgh is home to Smith's latest undertaking, THE SUNDAY PHILOSOPHY CLUB, billed as an "Isabel Dalhousie mystery."

Isabel Dalhousie, a quiet woman of independent means and a certain age, seems an unlikely gumshoe. As the editor of The Review of Applied Ethics, Isabel would seem more at home in a university philosophy department than dealing with the sordid details of murder most foul. But we, as Isabel would certainly agree, do not always choose our circumstances; at times they choose us.

In Isabel's case, circumstances cause her to witness an unfortunate death, a young man's fall from a symphony hall balcony. "Her first thought, curiously, was of Auden's poem on the fall of Icarus. Such events, said Auden, occur against a background of people going about their ordinary business. They do not look up and see the boy falling from the sky. I was talking to a friend, she thought. I was talking to a friend and the boy fell out of the sky." Isabel decides she has a moral duty to investigate the circumstances of the young man's death, being as she would have been the last person he saw before his death.

The trail winds her through the worlds of Scottish art and high finance before she reaches a conclusion. Along the way Isabel is confounded by a bushel of moral dilemmas. Does she have a duty to speak truthfully to a reporter who is bent on exploiting the grief of the victim's family?
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