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The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds: An Isabel Dalhousie Novel (9) Hardcover – October 23, 2012

4.1 out of 5 stars 226 customer reviews
Book 9 of 10 in the Isabel Dalhousie Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* A painting by Nicolas Poussin, valued at £3million pounds and slated for donation to Scotland’s National Gallery, has been stolen from the stately home of a Scottish country gentleman and held for ransom. After contacting his insurance company, the victim takes the unusual step of reaching out to Isabel Dalhousie, a philosopher who specializes in ethics. Isabel has the reputation for being able to sort through thorny situations and murky motives, a quality that has involved her in other people’s problems in eight previous novels in this series. At first glance, Isabel doesn’t seem nearly as quirky and human as McCall Smith’s other woman detective, Precious Ramotswe (of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency), or as the recurring characters in the Scotland Street or Corduroy Mansions series. Isabel seems to have it all, effortlessly: inherited wealth that allows her to publish the Review of Applied Ethics, a dreamboat of a younger husband, and an adorable little boy—all this good fortune housed in a well-appointed Edinburgh home. But Isabel’s constant awareness of how Nemesis may take notice of her makes her wholly sympathetic. The art theft itself, which expands into a consideration of famous art heists and forgeries, gives readers fascinating glimpses into a mostly hidden crime industry. McCall Smith spikes his heroine’s seemingly cloistered world with enough close encounters with tragedy—a neighbor stabbed to death by someone he brought home, for example—to make both Isabel and the reader aware of the fragility of good fortune. Utterly satisfying for its art-theft puzzle, characterization, and Edinburgh setting. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The Precious Ramotswe novels continue to be McCall Smith’s most popular franchise, but the Isabel Dalhousie series, starring the ethicist and crime solver, is sneaking up on the outside. --Connie Fletcher


Praise for the Isabel Dalhousie series
“McCall Smith’s talent for dialogue is matched only by his gift for characterization. It’s hard to believe that he could make up a character as complex and unique as Isabel. She is by turns fearless, vulnerable, headstrong and insecure, but always delightful.”
 —Chicago Tribune
“Readers get to soak up the cozy atmosphere of this Scottish university town and McCall Smith’s gentle good will.”
—The Boston Globe
“Entertaining and enchanting reading about characters you think you know—and wish you did.”
—Las Vegas Review-Journal
“McCall Smith’s contemporary cozies have proved that crimes need not be punishable by death to provide a satisfying read . . . A genteel, wisdom-filled entertainment.”
—Los Angeles Times

Product Details

  • Series: Isabel Dalhousie
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1 edition (October 23, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780307907332
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307907332
  • ASIN: 0307907333
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (226 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #178,476 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
This is the ninth instalment in Alexander McCall Smith's series about Isabel Dalhousie, editor of an ethics magazine and occasional sleuth. The last couple of books in the series were somewhat of a disappointment to me, but I enjoyed this one considerably more. Whilst the plot is as slim as ever - centering on Isabel's efforts to assist in the retrieval of a stolen painting - the book weaves its gentle charm over you as you read it. The "action" is interspersed with Isabel's musings on subjects as diverse as how to deal with rudeness in others, with whether we owe more to the people who live near us than people abroad and how to deal with conflict in marriages. I think what I like most about this series is the way it gets you thinking about the simple ways that you can live a more considerate life, about the importance of manners and kindness, without feeling that you are being preached to.

While many familiar characters make an appearance in the book - Grace has a falling out with Isabel and Eddie has romantic problems - others are barely mentioned, if at all. Cat is largely absent (hooray! no unsuitable boyfriends for once), as are Professors Dove and Lettuce. I was grateful for this, as it made the book feel less formulaic. I remain unconvinced by Isabel's relationships with Jamie and Charlie. Neither to me feel realistic, but at least her relationship with Jamie is made up of a little more this time round than just thinking about how lucky she is to have him.

I'm giving the book 3 stars because I liked, it but never found it terribly compelling and I suspect that in a week's time I'll be struggling to remember any of it. Having said that, I think that fans of the series will definitely enjoy it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was so pleased that Alexander didn't axe the Dalhousie series after Isabel got married. I have found every book in the series a joy to read and love the way the author manages to weave his own beliefs through the characters without being long winded and pious. I guess I enjoy all his books because I subscribe to almost everything he has to say about life. If only the majority of the world were like minded.
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Format: Paperback
This book was a disappointment. I usually like Alexander McCall Smith's work, but this one was hard to get through. The story is constantly derailed by Isabel's musings about just about everything but the plot. The main mystery of who stole the painting is never solved. The issue with Eddie and his girlfriend just disappears. And I can not understand Isabel's problem with Grace teaching her son mathematics. All in all a waste of time and money.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I adore Alexander McCall Smith books; they make me feel good/happy. They tickle my funny bone and they lighten my day. They are particularly good "palate cleansers" after difficult or depressing novels. In this case, I read "The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds" the latest in the Isabel Dalhousie series, immediately after reading "City of Women" by David R. Gillham, which is a wonderful novel of Berlin in 1943 but full of descriptions of Gestapo torture. So you can imagine how glad I was to revisit the lives of Isabel, Jamie, Grace and baby Charlie!

These delightful novels aren't really plot driven; they are a slice of time in the lives of Smith's beloved characters. In this installment, Isabel is asked to help a man who has been the victim of an art theft, or more aptly: an art "kidnapping" with a ransom that is also referred to as a reward. There are some wonderful scenes with Isabel and a nasty lawyer and of course the book is full of Isabel's internal ruminations about morals and ethics, mathematics, architecture and etc. as one expects from this series.

Bonus: I've acquired a "smart phone" since the last time I read an Isabel Dalhousie book and I found it very handy for looking up the works of art that are described in the book (Smith often discusses paintings in his novels). When I wonder what Poussin's "A Dance to the Music of Time" looks like, I just pause briefly and look it up on line! It really adds to my enjoyment of the story and also provides a mini art-appreciation lesson.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is the first book that I have read by this author. I know that he has written numerous books and this one is number nine in the Isabel Dalhousie series. When I first started reading it, I thought if it doesn't get any better by the next chapter, I will put it down. However, I am glad that I continued to read. Isabel is a very interesting character. Perhaps a little too straight forward at times but her musings about life are interesting. There is a mystery woven through the story along with a lot of human interest. Apparently Isabel has the reputation of helping people. She assists a Scotsman who has had a very valuable painting stolen. Isabel has determined that it is one of his children. The picture is mysteriously returned after Isabel writes a letter to each of the family members stating that she knows who has stolen the painting. She is the owner and editor of "The Review of Applied Ethics". Isabel is a philosopher and it stands out in her musing about her son Charlie (who could be a mathematical genius) and Jamie her musician husband. Her philosophic attitude comes out in her dealings with the stolen painting and her niece's employee Eddie, who from a prior book had some unfortunate event. This is a stand- alone read but I think it would be helpful to have read some of the prior books in the series to fully understand and/or add more depth to some of the situations.
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