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The Sunday Philosophy Club (Isabel Dalhousie Series) Paperback – July 12, 2005
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“Genial.... Wise.... Glows like a rare jewel.” —Entertainment Weekly
“The literary equivalent of herbal tea and a cozy fire. . . . McCall Smith’s Scotland [is] well worth future visits.” —The New York Times
“In Mma Ramotswe, [McCall Smith] minted one of the most memorable heroines in any modern fiction. Now, with the creation of Isabel Dalhousie . . . he’s done it again. . . . She’s such good company, it’s hard to believe she’s fictional. You finish this installment greedily looking forward to more.” —Newsweek
“Charmingly told. . . . Its graceful prose shines, and Isabel's interior monologues—meditations on a variety of moral questions—are bemused, intelligent and entertaining.” —The Seattle Times
“Endearing. . . . Offers tantalizing glimpses of Edinburgh’s complex character and a nice, long look into the beautiful mind of a thinking woman.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Fans of Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novels will delight in this new series, featuring as its heroine the tart-tongued, tartan-clad problem-solver Isabel Dalhousie. The book club will love it.” —Life
“Whimsical. . . . [A] memorable cast of characters. . . . McCall Smith’s assessments of fellow humans are piercing and profound. . . . [His] depictions of Edinburgh are vivid and seamless. . . . His fans . . . are sure to embrace these moral peregrinations among the plaid.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“A mystery of moral responsibility and manners . . . [with] memorable minor characters, [an] intriguing, troubled heroine, local color and bracing Scottish patter.” —Newsday
“Habit-forming. . . .The Sunday Philosophy Club leaves plenty of time for pondering moral conundrums, the drinking of steaming cups of hot brew (coffee, in this case) and . . . gentle probing into the human condition.” —The Oregonian
“So believable. . . . The great pleasures of [The Sunday Philosophy Club] have to do with Smith's wry, gentle writing applied to intriguing plots more curious or humorous than dramatic. . . . Precious Ramotswe has found a kindred spirit.” —The Columbus Dispatch
“Alexander McCall Smith has become one of those commodities, like oil or chocolate or money, where the supply is never sufficient to the demand. . . . [He] is prolific and habit-forming. . . . [His] gift, one of them, is to inspire an eagerness to follow. . . . McCall Smith has done his job. Isabel lives. A series is born.” —The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
“Like walking down the street with an amazingly literate, thoughtful, witty and self-deprecating friend through a city that friend knows and loves well.” —The Times-Picayune (New Orleans)
“Skillfully written. . . . Smith’s Scotland . . . is a place where a profound, humane intelligence is at work.” --New York Daily News
“Mr. Smith, a fine writer, paints his hometown of Edinburgh as indelibly as he captures the sunniness of Africa. We can almost feel the mists as we tread the cobblestones.” —The Dallas Morning News
“Memorable. . . . The Sunday Philosophy Club will delight McCall Smith's existing fans and win him some new ones.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Charming. . . . Suspenseful. . . . A pleasant introduction to a woman readers will want to know more about.” —Detroit Free Press
“A quiet mystery aimed in equal parts at the head and the heart.” —The Patriot News (Harrisburg, PA)
“Devotees of Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series are certain to enjoy these new people and this new place. . . . To know Isabel Dalhousie is to like and admire her.” —Chicago Tribune
“Readers will be immediately smitten with the interplay between the philosopher, her tradition-bound housekeeper Grace and her unlucky in-love niece Cat.” —Ft. Myers News-Press
“An elegant mystery filled not with dead bodies but an air of gentle refinement, intelligence and insight. . . . Isabel is a true original.” —Orlando Sentinel
From the Inside Flap
Introducing Isabel Dalhousie the heroine of the latest bestselling series from the author of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. Isabel, the editor of the Review of Applied Ethics and an occasional detective, has been accused of getting involved in problems that are, quite frankly, none of her business.
In this first installment, Isabel is attending a concert in the Usher Hall when she witnesses a man fall from the upper balcony. Isabel can't help wondering whether it was the result of mischance or mischief. Against the best advice of her no-nonsense housekeeper Grace, her bassoon playing friend Jamie, and even her romantically challenged neice Cat, she is morally bound to solve this case. Complete with wonderful Edinburgh atmosphere and characters straight out of a Robert Burns poem, The Sunday Philosophy Club is a delightful treat from one of our most beloved authors.
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Isabel was never involved with the police in the solving of this puzzle. The reader is not given information from an official perspective, only the thoughts and wonderings of a woman who takes on the responsibility of finding out why Mark Fraser fell to his death from the balcony of a concert hall. Isabel believes that it is her moral and ethical responsibility to find out what happened.
As other reviewers have stated, this is a very slow moving novel. I enjoyed many of Isabel's mental gymnastics concerning her philosophy regarding one point or another in the investigation. I enjoyed her relationship with her niece, Cat and with her housekeeper Grace. But after a while I became anxious to have the book focus on the mystery, the investigation. It really never did satisfy me on that score. I also got rather dissatisfied with the references to the Sunday Philosophy Club which, as far as I could tell, did not even exist. There were certainly never any meetings taking place in this story, no members named, no questions or topics discussed.
I was easily able to read this book in one afternoon, partially because I finally began to skim over large amounts of the philosophy of blank vs blank. As an amateur sleuth Isabel has a huge amount of improvement to make before I read another of her adventures. I've noticed that later titles in this series no longer include the word mystery. That's probably good. Her character seemed like a very nice person but she really needed a better reason for getting herself involved in this case which ended with an anticlimactic whimper and a moral judgment on Isabel's part. But then, why bother the officials of Edinburgh at this late date?
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!
I give 1-star ratings to books I can't finish or are so dull I have to speed-read through them to get to the end (I hate to leave any book unread once I've started it). Unfortunately, this book falls into this category.
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Please keep the Dalhousie books coming!