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46 of 50 people found the following review helpful
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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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on October 29, 2012
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine 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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 1, 2012
Format: HardcoverVine 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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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on October 9, 2012
The series with Isobel Dalhousie is a real delight to read as are most of Alexander McCall Smith's books; he has a real insight into how people think and should behave. If you like a light read with pleasant characters and lots of philosophy and finishing a book with a smile on your face, then sit back relax and read the Uncommon Appeal of Clouds
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 2012
I hesitate to spoil others enjoyment of this series of books which clearly has a devoted following. But I also want to spare others from disappointment. The heroine, who is supposed to be shrewd, has occasional good ideas, but (for me) often comes off as rather trivial in her observations. Others may find this charming, that it makes her approachable; she is like us. Perhaps, as a psychiatrist, I am saturated with hearing other's mental musings and meanderings. Her's didn't seem particularly interesting, and I found myself wondering if she wouldn't benefit from a stimulant for ADHD.
Ordinarily, I am a sap for a happy ending that resolves matters, but her saccharine conclusion fails (for me) in its attempt to make the reader feel that family animosity has been healed - even if we're no closer to having our guesses about whodunit confirmed. We are left hanging on this, supposedly to feel that it doesn't matter if the family will just be nice to each other from now on (which I seriously doubt would be the case). For me, not identifying the miscreant violates what mysteries are obliged to do.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2013
Really not much to this one, hate to say. Pretty fluffy. Seemed like maybe AMS had to meet a deadline or something. It's a bummer, because I have liked the previous ones (and they're not exactly heavy reading to start with!)...
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 12, 2013
I purchased a Nook last week and this was the first book I downloaded. Thought I'd done something wrong because when I got to the end of the story, it felt like there was at least one chapter missing. Kept thinking, "That's it? But...but... What about the mystery??!"

Like other posters have written, I also kept wondering why Isabel simply didn't read the math book, research the pros and cons of early math intervention, and consult with a local school instead of automatically assuming Grace would be doing harm or that a teaching method from California would naturally be suspect. God knows if Isabel has enough time on her hands to take Eddie to the doctor's office, I think she could spare a few moments for a trip to the local education authorities.

I have fallen out of love with Dalhousie. Her philosophic musings about others' actions are interesting but it feels like the same spotlight is rarely turned inward (at least not as brightly).
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2015
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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18 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on August 24, 2013
I'm a big fan if Alexander McCall Smith, even if he is an industry, being so prolific in his writing that his novels tend to be rushed and sometimes feel incomplete. I love The No1 Ladies Detective series, despite its flaws. It's the exotic setting and the fact that Mma Ramotswe has such a good heart, something Isabel Dalhousie does NOT.
In superficial ways, Isabel and Precious are alike: well-to-do, disastrous first marriage, motherless, etc. But there's a world of difference between them- Precious is a professional lady, whereas Isabel is a dilettante. A nosy Parker, who lacks Precious' humility and is way too tetchy about everything. A lawyer who us doing her job is deemed "rude" by Isabel, who can't stop staring at her birthmark. Isabel is shockingly unprofessional with her journal, vindictively deciding to print a badly-thought out article on not letting kids get adopted by parents outside of their ethnic group just so she can annoy her nemesis (the idiotically named Professor Lettuce!)
The whole Jamie plotline I find way too toe-curlingly embarrassing. In reality, they would have had a fling, and Jamie would be clouds of departing dust on the horizon by now. (And good riddance- there's something a little too Oedipal about their relationship anyway!)All men in the Isabel Dalhousie series are basically little boys - the tragic Eddie, who can coolly turn off his emotions and drop his big love from one chapter to the next. The bizarre son of her "client", who miraculously opens up about his sexuality to her - who, when quoting Latin right after he tells her he doesn't want to speak or read the dead language ever, mentions how his Latin teacher liked boys in a deus ex machina non sequitor, and then insists this master was a good man. (Stockholm Syndrome, anyone?)
For someone who is so opinionated and "good", Isabel lets her housekeeper run roughshod over her. Grace clearly interferes in Isabel's raising of her son (becoming the pushy stage mother Isabel doesn't have time to be when she's poking her nose into other peoples' lives?) Grace should be fired, not begged to return after she resigns, but then, what is Grace doing, if not exactly what Isabel does, in a more direct and honest way, rather than hesitant dithering?
As typical of someone who is rushing to meet a deadline, the novel lacks continuity. Just how long can Isabel remain 41? She had a three year old child since the start of the series, but young Charlie is the only one allowed to age. Jamie will never turn 30, Eddie will always be a man-child of 21... I can't reconcile how the person who wrote The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency can keep penning this unfortunate series. I think I stubbornly keep reading it, hoping Isabel will turn into Precious...or hopefully Precious will take a trip to Edinburgh, discover Isabel Dalhousie wasting away in her delusions in a mental home and rattle some sense into her!
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