The Sunday Philosophy Club (Isabel Dalhousie Series #1)

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Overview

ISABEL DALHOUSIE - Book 1
 
Nothing captures the charm of Edinburgh like the bestselling Isabel Dalhousie series of novels featuring the insatiably curious philosopher and woman detective.  Whether investigating a case or a problem of philosophy, the indefatigable Isabel Dalhousie, one of fiction’s most richly developed amateur detectives, is always ready to pursue the answers to all of life’s ...

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The Sunday Philosophy Club (Isabel Dalhousie Series #1)

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Overview

ISABEL DALHOUSIE - Book 1
 
Nothing captures the charm of Edinburgh like the bestselling Isabel Dalhousie series of novels featuring the insatiably curious philosopher and woman detective.  Whether investigating a case or a problem of philosophy, the indefatigable Isabel Dalhousie, one of fiction’s most richly developed amateur detectives, is always ready to pursue the answers to all of life’s questions, large and small.

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 niece 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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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
When Alexander McCall Smith announced that he was temporarily closing down Botswana's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and launching a new series, readers grumbled. Fortunately, their lament was needless: Isabel Dalhousie, his new sleuth, is every bit as memorable and sympathetic as Precious Ramotswe. But that's where the resemblances end: Dalhousie is an ever-attentive Scottish philosopher, the editor of the Edinburgh-based Review of Applied Ethics. The journal title seems apt: Isabel spends much of her time applying ethics. For instance, when Mark Fraser falls from the balcony of a concert hall, she feels obliged to investigate because she was the last person the young man saw. Such scruples lead her down alleys perhaps too dangerous to explore, but before we know it, the culprit behind Fraser's seemingly innocent defenestration has been identified. A plucky new series by a master of local color.
From the Publisher
"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"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
Janet Maslin
But this book is a clear demonstration of Mr. McCall Smith's own philosophy: that there is wisdom in inviting readers into a world of kindness, gentility and creature comforts. Offer the literary equivalent of herbal tea and a cozy fire. They'll come back for more.
— The New York Times
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. Agent, Robin Strauss. (Sept. 28) Forecast: Fans will quickly be reassured that McCall Smith's latest possesses all the gentle humor and keen insights into human nature that characterized his Mma Ramotswe novels, and they will buy, buy, buy accordingly. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The author of the beloved "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series introduces Isabel Dalhousie, who equals Precious Ramotswe in intelligence and moxie. Isabel edits the Edinburgh-based Review of Applied Ethics and surrounds herself with a thoroughly engaging cast of characters. And like Precious, she has a knack for getting involved in local intrigue: while at the concert hall, she witnesses a young man falling to his death and decides that she has a moral obligation to investigate. Unfortunately, Smith's subplots are more interesting than the main mystery, and Isabel tends to get bogged down in philosophical digressions, but the writing and characters propel the narrative forward. While the plot takes a few unexpected turns, it is ultimately resolved too quickly and easily, all the while preparing the reader for future installments. For general mystery and/or fiction collections. Smith lives in Edinburgh, Scotland. [See Mystery Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/04.] Nicole A. Cooke, Montclair State Univ. Lib., NJ Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Smith puts the chronicles of Botswana's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency on hold to explore an equally civilized Edinburgh criminal scene that Ian Rankin's DI John Rebus would never recognize. Isabel Dalhousie doesn't like Stockhausen, but his impossible music on the bill at the Usher Hall is followed by an even worse discordance on the opening page: A beautiful young man plummets "from the gods" above Isabel's seat in the grand circle and lands with a dreadful impact below. In due course, Isabel will learn that the fallen angel, Mark Fraser, worked in the funds department at McDowall's, where he'd recently been talking quietly about a colleague whose insider trading he could prove. It's page 69, however, before Isabel can suggest that "I don't think that it was an accident." Meanwhile, and afterwards as well, she'll spend less time questioning suspects than editing essays submitted to the Review of Applied Ethics and growing increasingly unhappy over her niece Cat's unsuitable young man Toby. The result is a detective story with charm, warmth, and virtually no detection. There aren't even any meetings of the Sunday Philosophy Club. Lacking Precious Ramotswe's exotic locale (The Kalahari Typing School for Men, 2003, etc.), Isabel has to get by on civility and moral starch. But this new series, which makes Edinburgh feel as intimate as Mma Ramotswe's Gaborone, just might fill the bill for patient, literate readers mourning the death of Amanda Cross. Agent: David Higham/David Higham Associates
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400077090
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/12/2005
  • Series: Isabel Dalhousie Series , #1
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 215,835
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the huge international phenomenon, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, and The Sunday Philosophy Club series. He was born in what is now known as Zimbabwe and he was a law professor at the University of Botswana and at Edinburgh University. He lives in Scotland, where in his spare time he is a bassoonist in the RTO (Really Terrible Orchestra).

Biography

Alexander McCall Smith was born in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) and went to school in Bulawayo, near the Botswana border. Although he moved to Scotland to attend college and eventually settled in Edinburgh, he always felt drawn to southern Africa and taught law for a while at the University of Botswana. He has written a book on the criminal law of Botswana, and among his successful children's books is a collection of African folk tales, Children of Wax.

Eventually, Smith had an urge to write a novel about a woman who would embody the qualities he admired in the people of Botswana, and the result, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, was a surprise hit, receiving two special Booker citations and a place on the Times Literary Supplement's International Books of the Year and the Millennium list. "The author's prose has the merits of simplicity, euphony and precision," Anthony Daniels wrote in the Sunday Telegraph. "His descriptions leave one as if standing in the Botswanan landscape. This is art that conceals art. I haven't read anything with such unalloyed pleasure for a long time."

Despite the book's success in the U.K., American publishers were slow to take an interest, and by the time The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency was picked up by Pantheon Books, Smith had already written two sequels. The books went from underground hits to national phenomena in the United States, spawning fan clubs and inspiring celebratory reviews. Smith is also the author of a detective series featuring the insatiably curious philosopher Isabel Dalhousie and the 44 Scotland Street novels, which present a witty portrait of Edinburgh society

In an interview on the publisher's web site, Smith says he thinks the country of Botswana "particularly chimes with many of the values which Americans feel very strongly about -- respect for the rule of law and for individual freedom. I hope that readers will also see in these portrayals of Botswana some of the great traditional virtues in Africa -- in particular, courtesy and a striking natural dignity."

Good To Know

As a professor at Edinburgh Law School, Smith specializes in criminal law and medical law, and has written about the legal and ethical aspects of euthanasia, medical research, and medical practice.

When he isn't writing books or teaching, Smith finds time to play the bassoon in the candidly named amateur ensemble he co-founded, The Really Terrible Orchestra.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Isabel Dalhousie saw the young man fall from the edge of the upper circle, from the gods. His flight was so sudden and short, and it was for less than a second that she saw him, hair tousled, upside down, his shirt and jacket up around his chest so that his midriff was exposed. And then, striking the edge of the grand circle, he disappeared headfirst towards the stalls below.

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.

She would have remembered the evening, even if this had not happened. She had been dubious about the concert-a performance by the Reykjavik Symphony, of which she had never heard-and would not have gone had not a spare ticket been pressed upon her by a neighbour. Did Reykjavik really have a professional symphony orchestra, she wondered, or were the players amateurs? Of course, even if they were, if they had come as far as Edinburgh to give a late spring concert, then they deserved an audience; they could not be allowed to come all the way from Iceland and then perform to an empty hall. And so she had gone to the concert and had sat through a first half which comprised a romantic combination of German and Scottish: Mahler, Schubert, and Hamish McCunn.

It was a warm evening-unseasonably so for late March-and the atmosphere in the Usher Hall was close. She had come lightly dressed, as a precaution, and was glad that she had done so as the temperature in the grand circle inevitably climbed too high. During the interval she had made her way downstairs and had enjoyed the relief of the cooler air outside, eschewing the crush of the bar with its cacophony of conversation. She would find people she knew there, of course; it was impossible to go out in Edinburgh and not see anybody, but she was not in the mood for conversation that evening. When the time came to go back in, she toyed for a few moments with the idea of missing the second half, but she always felt inhibited from any act suggesting a lack of concentration or, worse still, of seriousness. So she had returned to her seat, picked up the programme from where she had left it on the armrest next to her, and studied what lay ahead. She took a deep intake of breath. Stockhausen!

She had brought with her a set of opera glasses-so necessary even in the moderate heights of the grand circle. With these trained on the stage so far down below, she scrutinised each player one by one, an activity she could never resist in concerts. One did not stare at people through binoculars normally, but here in the concert hall it was permitted, and if the binoculars strayed to the audience once in a while, who was to notice? The strings were unexceptional, but one of the clarinettists, she noticed, had a remarkable face: high cheekbones, deep-set eyes, and a chin that had been cleaved, surely, by an axe. Her gaze dwelt on him, and she thought of the generations of hardy Icelanders, and Danes before them, that had laboured to bring forth this type: men and women who scratched a living from the thin soil of upland farms; fishermen who hunted cod in steel-grey waters; women who struggled to keep their children alive on dried fish and oatmeal; and now, at the end of all this effort, a clarinettist.

She laid aside the opera glasses and sat back in her seat. It was a perfectly competent orchestra, and they had played the McCunn with gusto, but why did people still do Stockhausen? Perhaps it was some sort of statement of cultural sophistication. We may come from Reykjavik, and it may be a small town far from anywhere, but we can at least play Stockhausen as well as the rest of them. She closed her eyes. It was impossible music, really, and it was not something a visiting orchestra should inflict on its hosts. For a short while she considered the idea of orchestral courtesy. Certainly one should avoid giving political offence: German orchestras, of course, used to be careful about playing Wagner abroad, at least in some countries, choosing instead German composers who were somewhat more . . . apologetic. This suited Isabel, who disliked Wagner.

The Stockhausen was the final item on the programme. When at last the conductor had retired and the clapping had died down-not as warm as it might have been, she thought; something to do with Stockhausen-she slipped out of her seat and made her way to the ladies' room. She turned on a tap and scooped water into her mouth-the Usher Hall had nothing so modern as a drinking fountain-and then splashed some on her face. She felt cooler, and now made her way out onto the landing again. It was at this point, though, that Isabel caught sight of her friend Jennifer standing at the bottom of the short flight of stairs that led into the grand circle.

She hesitated. It was still uncomfortably warm inside, but she had not seen Jennifer for over a year, and she could hardly walk past without greeting her.

Isabel made her way through the crowds.

"I'm waiting for David," Jennifer said, gesturing towards the grand circle. "He lost a contact lens, would you believe it, and one of the usherettes has lent him a torch to go and look for it under his seat. He lost one on the train through to Glasgow and now he's done it again."

They chatted as the last of the crowd made its way down the stairs behind them. Jennifer, a handsome woman, in her early forties-like Isabel-was wearing a red suit on which she had pinned a large gold brooch in the shape of a fox's head. Isabel could not help but look at the fox, which had ruby eyes, and seemed to be watching her. Brother Fox, she thought. So like Brother Fox.

After a few minutes, Jennifer looked anxiously up the stairs.

"We should go and see if he needs help," she said irritably. "It'll be an awful nuisance if he's lost another one."

They took a few steps up the short set of stairs and looked down towards the place where they could make out David's back, hunched behind a seat, the light of the torch glinting between the seating. And it was at that moment, as they stood there, that the young man fell from the layer above-silently, wordlessly, arms flailing as if he were trying to fly, or fend off the ground-and then disappeared from view.

For a brief moment they stared at each other in mutual disbelief. And then, from below, there came a scream, a woman's voice, high-pitched; and then a man shouted and a door slammed somewhere.

Isabel reached forward and seized Jennifer's arm. "My God!" she said. "My God!"

From where he had been crouching, Jennifer's husband straightened up. "What was that?" he called to them. "What happened?"

"Somebody fell," said Jennifer. She pointed at the upper circle, at the point where the top layer joined the wall. "From up there. He fell."

They looked at one another again. Now Isabel moved forward to the edge of the circle. There was a brass rail running along the parapet, and she held on to this as she peered over.

Below her, slumped over the edge of a seat, his legs twisted over the arms of the neighbouring seats, one foot, she noticed, without a shoe, but stockinged, was the young man. She could not see his head, which was down below the level of the seat; but she saw an arm sticking up, as if reaching for something, but quite still. Beside him stood two men in evening dress, one of whom had reached forward and was touching him, while the other looked back towards the door.

"Quickly!" one of the men shouted. "Hurry!"

A woman called out something and a third man ran up the aisle to where the young man lay. He bent down and then began to lift the young man off the seat. Now the head came into view, and lolled, as if loosened from the body. Isabel withdrew and looked at Jennifer.

"We'll have to go down there," she said. "We saw what happened. We had better go and tell somebody what we saw."

Jennifer nodded. "We didn't see much," she said. "It was over so quickly. Oh dear."

Isabel saw that her friend was shaking, and she put an arm about her shoulder. "That was ghastly!" she said. "Such a shock."

Jennifer closed her eyes. "He just came down . . . so quickly. Do you think he's still alive? Did you see?"

"I'm afraid he looked rather badly hurt," said Isabel, thinking, It's worse than that.

They went downstairs. A small crowd of people had gathered round the door into the stalls and there was a buzz of conversation. As Isabel and Jennifer drew near, a woman turned to them and said: "Somebody fell from the gods. He's in there."

Isabel nodded. "We saw it happen," she said. "We were up there."

"You saw it?" said the woman. "You actually saw it?"

"We saw him coming down," said Jennifer. "We were in the grand circle. He came down past us."

"How dreadful," said the woman. "To see it . . ."

"Yes."

The woman looked at Isabel with that sudden human intimacy that the witnessing of tragedy permitted.

"I don't know if we should be standing here," Isabel muttered, half to Jennifer, half to the other woman. "We'll just get in the way."

The other woman drew back. "One wants to do something," she said lamely.

"I do hope that he's all right," said Jennifer. "Falling all that way. He hit the edge of the circle, you know. It might have broken the fall a bit."

No, thought Isabel, it would have made it worse, perhaps; there would be two sets of injuries, the blow from the edge of the circle and injuries on the ground. She looked behind her; there was activity at the front door and then, against the wall, the flashing blue light of the ambulance outside.

"We must let them get through," said Jennifer, moving away from the knot of people at the door. "The ambulance men will need to get in."

They stood back as two men in loose green fatigues hurried past, carrying a folded stretcher. They were not long in coming out-less than a minute, it seemed-and then they went past, the young man laid out on the stretcher, his arms folded over his chest. Isabel turned away, anxious not to intrude, but she saw his face before she averted her gaze. She saw the halo of tousled dark hair and the fine features, undamaged. To be so beautiful, she thought, and now the end. She closed her eyes. She felt raw inside, empty. This poor young man, loved by somebody somewhere, whose world would end this evening, she thought, when the cruel news was broached. All that love invested in a future that would not materialise, ended in a second, in a fall from the gods.

She turned to Jennifer. "I'm going upstairs quickly," she said, her voice lowered. "Tell them that we saw it. Tell them I'll be back in a moment."

Jennifer nodded, looking about her to see who was in charge. There was confusion now. A woman was sobbing, one of the women who must have been standing in the stalls when he came down, and she was being comforted by a tall man in an evening jacket.

Isabel detached herself and made her way to one of the staircases that led up to the gods. She felt uneasy, and glanced behind her, but there was nobody around. She climbed up the last few stairs, through one of the archways that led to the steeply racked seating. It was quiet, and the lights suspended from the ceiling above were dimmed in their ornate glass bowls. She looked down, to the edge over which the boy had fallen. They had been standing almost immediately below the point at which he had dropped, which enabled her to calculate where he must have been standing before he slipped.

She made her way down to the parapet and edged along the front row of seats. Here was the brass rail over which he must have been leaning before, and there, down on the ground, a programme. She bent down and picked it up; its cover, she noticed, had a slight tear, but that was all. She replaced it where she had found it. Then she bent over and looked down over the edge. He must have been sitting here, at the very end of the row, where the upper circle met the wall. Had he been further in towards the middle, he would have landed in the grand circle; only at the end of the row was there a clear drop down to the stalls.

For a moment she felt a swaying vertigo, and she closed her eyes. But then she opened them again and looked down into the stalls, a good fifty feet below. Beneath her, standing near to where the young man had landed, a man in a blue windcheater looked upwards and into her eyes. They were both surprised, and Isabel leant backwards, as if warned off by his stare.

Isabel left the edge and made her way back up the aisle between the seats. She had no idea what she had expected to find-if anything-and she felt embarrassed to have been seen by that man below. What must he have thought of her? A vulgar onlooker trying to imagine what that poor boy must have seen during his last seconds on this earth, no doubt. But that was not what she had been doing; not at all.

She reached the stairs and began to walk down, holding the rail as she did so. The steps were stone, and spiral, and one might so easily slip. As he must have done, she thought. He must have looked over, perhaps to see if he could spot somebody down below, a friend maybe, and then he had lost his footing and toppled over. It could easily happen-the parapet was low enough.

She stopped halfway down the stairs. She was alone, but she had heard something. Or had she imagined it? She strained her ears to catch a sound, but there was nothing. She took a breath. He must have been the very last person up there, all alone, when everybody else had gone and the girl at the bar on the landing was closing up. That boy had been there himself and had looked down, and then he had fallen, silently, perhaps seeing herself and Jennifer on the way down, who would then have been his last human contact.

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First Chapter

Chapter One

Isabel Dalhousie saw the young man fall from the edge of the upper circle, from the gods. His flight was so sudden and short, and it was for less than a second that she saw him, hair tousled, upside down, his shirt and jacket up around his chest so that his midriff was exposed. And then, striking the edge of the grand circle, he disappeared headfirst towards the stalls below.

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.

She would have remembered the evening, even if this had not happened. She had been dubious about the concert-a performance by the Reykjavik Symphony, of which she had never heard-and would not have gone had not a spare ticket been pressed upon her by a neighbour. Did Reykjavik really have a professional symphony orchestra, she wondered, or were the players amateurs? Of course, even if they were, if they had come as far as Edinburgh to give a late spring concert, then they deserved an audience; they could not be allowed to come all the way from Iceland and then perform to an empty hall. And so she had gone to the concert and had sat through a first half which comprised a romantic combination of German and Scottish: Mahler, Schubert, and Hamish McCunn.

It was a warm evening-unseasonably so for late March-and the atmosphere in the Usher Hall was close. She had come lightly dressed, as a precaution, and was glad that she had done so as the temperature inthe grand circle inevitably climbed too high. During the interval she had made her way downstairs and had enjoyed the relief of the cooler air outside, eschewing the crush of the bar with its cacophony of conversation. She would find people she knew there, of course; it was impossible to go out in Edinburgh and not see anybody, but she was not in the mood for conversation that evening. When the time came to go back in, she toyed for a few moments with the idea of missing the second half, but she always felt inhibited from any act suggesting a lack of concentration or, worse still, of seriousness. So she had returned to her seat, picked up the programme from where she had left it on the armrest next to her, and studied what lay ahead. She took a deep intake of breath. Stockhausen!

She had brought with her a set of opera glasses-so necessary even in the moderate heights of the grand circle. With these trained on the stage so far down below, she scrutinised each player one by one, an activity she could never resist in concerts. One did not stare at people through binoculars normally, but here in the concert hall it was permitted, and if the binoculars strayed to the audience once in a while, who was to notice? The strings were unexceptional, but one of the clarinettists, she noticed, had a remarkable face: high cheekbones, deep-set eyes, and a chin that had been cleaved, surely, by an axe. Her gaze dwelt on him, and she thought of the generations of hardy Icelanders, and Danes before them, that had laboured to bring forth this type: men and women who scratched a living from the thin soil of upland farms; fishermen who hunted cod in steel-grey waters; women who struggled to keep their children alive on dried fish and oatmeal; and now, at the end of all this effort, a clarinettist.

She laid aside the opera glasses and sat back in her seat. It was a perfectly competent orchestra, and they had played the McCunn with gusto, but why did people still do Stockhausen? Perhaps it was some sort of statement of cultural sophistication. We may come from Reykjavik, and it may be a small town far from anywhere, but we can at least play Stockhausen as well as the rest of them. She closed her eyes. It was impossible music, really, and it was not something a visiting orchestra should inflict on its hosts. For a short while she considered the idea of orchestral courtesy. Certainly one should avoid giving political offence: German orchestras, of course, used to be careful about playing Wagner abroad, at least in some countries, choosing instead German composers who were somewhat more . . . apologetic. This suited Isabel, who disliked Wagner.

The Stockhausen was the final item on the programme. When at last the conductor had retired and the clapping had died down-not as warm as it might have been, she thought; something to do with Stockhausen-she slipped out of her seat and made her way to the ladies' room. She turned on a tap and scooped water into her mouth-the Usher Hall had nothing so modern as a drinking fountain-and then splashed some on her face. She felt cooler, and now made her way out onto the landing again. It was at this point, though, that Isabel caught sight of her friend Jennifer standing at the bottom of the short flight of stairs that led into the grand circle.

She hesitated. It was still uncomfortably warm inside, but she had not seen Jennifer for over a year, and she could hardly walk past without greeting her.

Isabel made her way through the crowds.

"I'm waiting for David," Jennifer said, gesturing towards the grand circle. "He lost a contact lens, would you believe it, and one of the usherettes has lent him a torch to go and look for it under his seat. He lost one on the train through to Glasgow and now he's done it again."

They chatted as the last of the crowd made its way down the stairs behind them. Jennifer, a handsome woman, in her early forties-like Isabel-was wearing a red suit on which she had pinned a large gold brooch in the shape of a fox's head. Isabel could not help but look at the fox, which had ruby eyes, and seemed to be watching her. Brother Fox, she thought. So like Brother Fox.

After a few minutes, Jennifer looked anxiously up the stairs.

"We should go and see if he needs help," she said irritably. "It'll be an awful nuisance if he's lost another one."

They took a few steps up the short set of stairs and looked down towards the place where they could make out David's back, hunched behind a seat, the light of the torch glinting between the seating. And it was at that moment, as they stood there, that the young man fell from the layer above-silently, wordlessly, arms flailing as if he were trying to fly, or fend off the ground-and then disappeared from view.



For a brief moment they stared at each other in mutual disbelief. And then, from below, there came a scream, a woman's voice, high-pitched; and then a man shouted and a door slammed somewhere.

Isabel reached forward and seized Jennifer's arm. "My God!" she said. "My God!"

From where he had been crouching, Jennifer's husband straightened up. "What was that?" he called to them. "What happened?"

"Somebody fell," said Jennifer. She pointed at the upper circle, at the point where the top layer joined the wall. "From up there. He fell."

They looked at one another again. Now Isabel moved forward to the edge of the circle. There was a brass rail running along the parapet, and she held on to this as she peered over.

Below her, slumped over the edge of a seat, his legs twisted over the arms of the neighbouring seats, one foot, she noticed, without a shoe, but stockinged, was the young man. She could not see his head, which was down below the level of the seat; but she saw an arm sticking up, as if reaching for something, but quite still. Beside him stood two men in evening dress, one of whom had reached forward and was touching him, while the other looked back towards the door.

"Quickly!" one of the men shouted. "Hurry!"

A woman called out something and a third man ran up the aisle to where the young man lay. He bent down and then began to lift the young man off the seat. Now the head came into view, and lolled, as if loosened from the body. Isabel withdrew and looked at Jennifer.

"We'll have to go down there," she said. "We saw what happened. We had better go and tell somebody what we saw."

Jennifer nodded. "We didn't see much," she said. "It was over so quickly. Oh dear."

Isabel saw that her friend was shaking, and she put an arm about her shoulder. "That was ghastly!" she said. "Such a shock."

Jennifer closed her eyes. "He just came down . . . so quickly. Do you think he's still alive? Did you see?"

"I'm afraid he looked rather badly hurt," said Isabel, thinking, It's worse than that.



They went downstairs. A small crowd of people had gathered round the door into the stalls and there was a buzz of conversation. As Isabel and Jennifer drew near, a woman turned to them and said: "Somebody fell from the gods. He's in there."

Isabel nodded. "We saw it happen," she said. "We were up there."

"You saw it?" said the woman. "You actually saw it?"

"We saw him coming down," said Jennifer. "We were in the grand circle. He came down past us."

"How dreadful," said the woman. "To see it . . ."

"Yes."

The woman looked at Isabel with that sudden human intimacy that the witnessing of tragedy permitted.

"I don't know if we should be standing here," Isabel muttered, half to Jennifer, half to the other woman. "We'll just get in the way."

The other woman drew back. "One wants to do something," she said lamely.

"I do hope that he's all right," said Jennifer. "Falling all that way. He hit the edge of the circle, you know. It might have broken the fall a bit."

No, thought Isabel, it would have made it worse, perhaps; there would be two sets of injuries, the blow from the edge of the circle and injuries on the ground. She looked behind her; there was activity at the front door and then, against the wall, the flashing blue light of the ambulance outside.

"We must let them get through," said Jennifer, moving away from the knot of people at the door. "The ambulance men will need to get in."

They stood back as two men in loose green fatigues hurried past, carrying a folded stretcher. They were not long in coming out-less than a minute, it seemed-and then they went past, the young man laid out on the stretcher, his arms folded over his chest. Isabel turned away, anxious not to intrude, but she saw his face before she averted her gaze. She saw the halo of tousled dark hair and the fine features, undamaged. To be so beautiful, she thought, and now the end. She closed her eyes. She felt raw inside, empty. This poor young man, loved by somebody somewhere, whose world would end this evening, she thought, when the cruel news was broached. All that love invested in a future that would not materialise, ended in a second, in a fall from the gods.

She turned to Jennifer. "I'm going upstairs quickly," she said, her voice lowered. "Tell them that we saw it. Tell them I'll be back in a moment."

Jennifer nodded, looking about her to see who was in charge. There was confusion now. A woman was sobbing, one of the women who must have been standing in the stalls when he came down, and she was being comforted by a tall man in an evening jacket.

Isabel detached herself and made her way to one of the staircases that led up to the gods. She felt uneasy, and glanced behind her, but there was nobody around. She climbed up the last few stairs, through one of the archways that led to the steeply racked seating. It was quiet, and the lights suspended from the ceiling above were dimmed in their ornate glass bowls. She looked down, to the edge over which the boy had fallen. They had been standing almost immediately below the point at which he had dropped, which enabled her to calculate where he must have been standing before he slipped.

She made her way down to the parapet and edged along the front row of seats. Here was the brass rail over which he must have been leaning before, and there, down on the ground, a programme. She bent down and picked it up; its cover, she noticed, had a slight tear, but that was all. She replaced it where she had found it. Then she bent over and looked down over the edge. He must have been sitting here, at the very end of the row, where the upper circle met the wall. Had he been further in towards the middle, he would have landed in the grand circle; only at the end of the row was there a clear drop down to the stalls.

For a moment she felt a swaying vertigo, and she closed her eyes. But then she opened them again and looked down into the stalls, a good fifty feet below. Beneath her, standing near to where the young man had landed, a man in a blue windcheater looked upwards and into her eyes. They were both surprised, and Isabel leant backwards, as if warned off by his stare.

Isabel left the edge and made her way back up the aisle between the seats. She had no idea what she had expected to find-if anything-and she felt embarrassed to have been seen by that man below. What must he have thought of her? A vulgar onlooker trying to imagine what that poor boy must have seen during his last seconds on this earth, no doubt. But that was not what she had been doing; not at all.

She reached the stairs and began to walk down, holding the rail as she did so. The steps were stone, and spiral, and one might so easily slip. As he must have done, she thought. He must have looked over, perhaps to see if he could spot somebody down below, a friend maybe, and then he had lost his footing and toppled over. It could easily happen-the parapet was low enough.

She stopped halfway down the stairs. She was alone, but she had heard something. Or had she imagined it? She strained her ears to catch a sound, but there was nothing. She took a breath. He must have been the very last person up there, all alone, when everybody else had gone and the girl at the bar on the landing was closing up. That boy had been there himself and had looked down, and then he had fallen, silently, perhaps seeing herself and Jennifer on the way down, who would then have been his last human contact.
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Reading Group Guide

1. Isabel Dalhousie is a single, wealthy, literary woman of settled habits with a strong interest in moral behavior. In what ways is she a model female sleuth, and in what ways is she a surprising one? How does she compare with Precious Ramotswe of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency? How does she compare with other female detectives in literature?

2. Geoffrey McManus is a person with terrible manners. He interrogates Isabel, wanting to know how the face of the dead man looked as he was carried out on a stretcher, then he insults her, calling her “spinster of this parish” [p. 34]. Toby, too, according to Isabel, has bad manners; she notes that he reaches eagerly for the largest pieces of the smoked salmon at dinner. Isabel speaks of “the decline of civility” [p. 108]. Why are people’s manners a point of interest for Isabel [pp. 140–41]? Should The Sunday Philosophy Club be considered a novel of manners, in the tradition of Jane Austen and Henry James? How are manners indicative of a person’s moral philosophy?

3. Judging by her realization that even though she wants John Liamor back he will never return to her [p. 47], it seems that Isabel is the kind of person who loves only once in life. However, there are hints that her affection for Jamie might develop further. Does the story suggest that Isabel and Jamie are better suited to each other than Cat and Jamie?

4. Consider the description of John Liamor [pp. 40–43] in light of “the best interests test and the personal chemistry test” [p. 73]. Is he a good choice for Isabel? What do we learn about him from Isabel’s description of their visit to Ireland [p. 81]? Is her continuing love for him purely irrational? What drives it?

5. Cat is annoyed at Isabel’s tendency to get involved in things that are none of her business [p. 69]. Isabel insists, on the other hand, that the man who fell from the balcony entered her “moral space”—and that she therefore has a moral obligation to him. Is Isabel correct in arguing for proximity as a basis for moral claims [p. 70]? If she is right in sensing that part of the reason she wants to pursue the matter is that she is simply curious [p. 71], how different is she in moral terms from the reporter Geoffrey McManus?

6. Isabel’s friendships with her housekeeper Grace and her niece Cat are reliable comforts in her daily life. What qualities does each woman bring to the partnership? What do their conversations reveal about the bonds of female friendship?

7. Isabel raises the question of unequal desire in love when she reflects, “We do not like those who are completely available, who make themselves over to us entirely” [p. 74]. Do you feel this accurately reflects Cat’s emotional reaction to Jamie? Does this explain Isabel’s continuing interest in John Liamor?

8. Why is the novel called The Sunday Philosophy Club, if the club seems to be purely notional, never having met? Are readers the members of this club, as if by reading the novel they are entering into Isabel’s mind, which is constantly engaged in philosophical questioning?

9. Having discovered, by following an impulse of “vulgar curiosity” [p. 111], that Toby is involved with another woman, Isabel wonders whether she should tell Cat about what she saw. Does she arrive at the most reasonable conclusion [pp. 111–12]? Do you agree with her decision?

10. Consider the list of possible suspects: who seems most likely to have murdered Mark—Neil? Johnny Sanderson? Minty Auchterlonie? How reliable is Isabel’s intuition about these characters?

11. It is Neil who comes to Isabel and tells her of Mark Fraser’s knowledge of insider trading at his firm [p. 117], thus turning the case into an investigation of a murder. How surprising is the ultimate revelation of how Mark died, and why? How is the crime’s solution linked to the theme of truth and honesty?

12. What sexual undertones are revealed in Isabel’s thoughts about Jamie [pp. 127, 133], her thoughts about the reason for Cat’s preferring Toby to Jamie, and her helpless attraction to John Liamor? Why are these undercurrents so prevalent, and how are they tied to the ongoing threads of the story?

13. The Edinburgh setting is a crucial element of The Sunday Philosophy Club. It is a city where respectability is highly valued, but, according to Isabel, is also built on hypocrisy: “Respectability was such an effort though, and there were bars and clubs where people might go and behave as they really wanted to behave, but did not dare to do so publicly” [p. 55]. Edinburgh is also associated with philosopher David Hume, who wrote An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, among other books. Is Isabel an exemplary product of Edinburgh’s Protestant bourgeoisie, or not? What aspects of her life, or her character, place her in the position of outsider [p. 206–7]? Who in the text best represents traditional Scots respectability?

14. How would you characterize Isabel’s sense of humor? Is she a companionable narrator? If so, what qualities make her sensibility satisfying for a reader?

15. How is The Sunday Philosophy Club not typical of the mystery genre? How central to the reading experience is the mystery of how and why Mark Fraser died? Are other aspects of the plot equally interesting?

16. Readers of The Sunday Philosophy Club, the first novel in a new series, have the pleasure of speculating on how the characters and plots introduced here may be developed in the books that follow. What would you like to see happen in the future? If you have read Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novels, how might the Isabel Dalhousie series follow similar lines? How might the very different characters and settings influence the development of this new series?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 59 )
Rating Distribution

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(10)

4 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 59 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2008

    A Delightful Study

    If you go into this book holding certain assumptions, you'll be disappointed but if you occassionally remind yourself that this is NOT Zebra Drive, and that Ms. Dalhousie is NOT supposed to be Mma Ramotswe, you may be able to settle in and enjoy getting to know a fascinating new character: not someone you're supposed to 'like' or 'approve' of or 'agree with' rather someone who is delightfully complex, a bit stuffy and upright for anyone's taste,too philosophical and hell-bent on 'ethical' to her own downfall, and in all, a great study. I highly recommend this new character and her world and would simply advise any newcomers: forget your expectations: just sit back and enjoy!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2012

    Alexander McCall Smith never disappoints!

    A bit deep and "philosophical" at first, but then you get to love Isabel and it pure entertainment from there on.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 1, 2011

    An intellectual mystery...

    I haven't read any of Alexander McCall Smith's books - this was my first. I really enjoyed the plot, the philosophical questions that were raised, the humanity of the main character, and the fact that I had to actually look up a few words! I consider myself to be a fairly verbal person, spending most of my job writing and reading. It was so refreshing to see some infrequently-used words in this book. It's a cozy mystery for the Mensa set. The book moved a tad slow at some points, but I'd still read more of this series.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 6, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Not your typical mystery.

    To be honest I bought this book because a friend gave me the second book in the series. I figured I'd give it a whirl. This is not your typical mystery in fact there isn't much of a mystery at all. Isabel is a philosopher,most of the dialog is Isabel's thoughts. I found this to be an interesting concept. I'm not so sure how this will play out in the rest of the series it may ware thin. The other characters seem to be good supporting players - the author has left ample room for development. I'm open to reading more in this series at the very least the author has peaked an interest.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2007

    Not a rewarding read.

    I read the African detective series and loved them so I looked with enthusiam to the new series. The Sunday Philosopy Club was slow, plodding and not really rewarding. I finished it because I kept waiting for something major to happen. It was a big disappointment. I think the main point was that the main character was just plain dislikeable. A woman of the new century who did not earn my respect in the life she led. I finished it because I bought it. A sad comment.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2007

    Stick to the Detective Ramotswe series

    I so thoroughly enjoy the 'No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency'/Precious Ramotswe series that I could not understand how this book was written by the same author. The end was so absurd, unrealistic and had nothing at all to do with the perceding 200 pages. And the philospohical rantings were just so lame. I will continue to read and enjoy Detective Ramotswe but will be sure to stay clear and away from Ms. Dalhousie.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2006

    horrid

    this book was so awful, it made me angry for wasting my time. the main character is condescending, patronizing and absolutely annoying. this book appears to be nothing more than a forum for the author to insert his conservative, judgemental viewpoints in the guise of isabel's inner dialogue. her repetitive and unnecessary internal philosophical debates were tedious and did nothing but make me hope i am never cursed with meeting a person such as she. the storyline was a joke, serving only as a flimsy framing excuse for mccall smith's diabtribes. i am sorry i chose to try this series before no. 1 ladies detetive agency, because now i'm not sure i'll ever pick up another of his books.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2014

    A good beginning to a new series. The eerie reoccurence of Grace

    A good beginning to a new series. The eerie reoccurence of Grace is inspired, serving as a kind of shorthand for a foil to the reflective and less judgmental main characters (Dalhousie and Ramotswe). However, at times I would have liked to see a new character with an entirely different configuration. Isabel's wealth is tempered by her modesty, and that makes her more interesting to the rest of us. As for the philosophizing, yes, no, maybe; the reader can agree, argue or be puzzled as the case may be. Overall, it's not the great work of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, at least not yet.
    Mary Clark, author of Tally: An Intuitive Life

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  • Posted July 13, 2012

    Do you like red herrings? Plot twists? Unexpected revelations? D

    Do you like red herrings? Plot twists? Unexpected revelations? Do you like all the things that make mysteries fun to read? Look elsewhere. After enjoying several books in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, I found this one a big disappointment. The main character is intellectually snobbish, highly class-conscious, parochial, and self-important, and none of these traits are meant to be humorous. There's hardly any plot and very little mystery. The investigation, such as it is, is spread out over a couple of months, but could have been resolved in a single afternoon if the detective had asked the one obvious question that any reader with an ounce of sense will have thought of as soon as the victim dies. The ending lacks drama and has no emotional resonance. The subplot involving the detective's niece's romantic life is thoroughly uninteresting. The one episode involving what seems to be a bit of danger and excitement turns out to be a sort of drunken wrong turn. A few chapters end with attempts at "cliffhangers," but they are quickly revealed to be misunderstandings. This might have worked as a parody of the mystery genre but it takes itself much too seriously for that.

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  • Posted June 15, 2012

    I have just started this series, and I am enjoying every word! I

    I have just started this series, and I am enjoying every word! Isabel Dalhousie, a philosopher, resides in the very lovely city of Edinburgh. She becomes involved, albeit intentionally, in the mysterious fall of a young professional. The characters, setting, and story are a delight!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2012

    A "so-so" book

    After falling in love with Alexander McCall Smith's Detective Agency series, this book was a huge disappointment. The plot did not hold my interest evem after readomg 1/2 of the book. Isabel's story was one that didn't make any sense whatsoever ... more of a story of a lonely woman with nothing better to do than get involved in situations that had nothing to do with her. I do not recommend this book. BORING.

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  • Posted April 9, 2011

    lost attention

    I struggled to read and was disappointed

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Disappointing

    This series most definitely does not compare to the #1 Ladies Detective Agency series. The characters seemed to be one dimensional, and not very interesting. I enjoy Alexander McCall Smith's writing, but did not at all enjoy this particular book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2006

    Lifeless

    Unfortunately, this offering is claustrphic, slow moving, and depressing. Waiting for its plot to develop is like waiting for a bus that has broken down immediately after it left the station.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2006

    Yes, This is NOT the #1 Ladies Detective Agency

    The Sunday Philosophy Club is definately not the #1 Ladies Detective Agency. It is set in a different country and with a different type of people and should not be compared to the Detective Agency. I agree with one reader that a dictionary is good to have near. I look foreward to reading the next book in this series. I have read all of the #1 Ladies Detective Agency and loved them and also 44 Scotland Street. I recomend reading each series for it's own story.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2005

    fun read

    McCall Smith creates another colorful character in Isabel Dalhousie. This book was a fun, fast read and he gets a chance to show his erudition. He uses lots of interesting vocabulary and the book offers a picture of life in Edinburgh. The main character shows the same intuition about people as our Precious does in Ladies Detective Agency.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2005

    Keep a dictionary handy with this one!

    Alexander McCall Smith begins a new series with The Sunday Philosophy Club. Be advised that the story has nothing to do with ¿the club.¿ It is only but mentioned once or twice. It is, however, about Isabel Dalhousie, an early forties, single woman of independent means (as others have said) who can¿t seem to keep from getting involved in the business of others. For those who want to compare this book to The No. 1 Ladies¿ Detective Agency series, please do not. It is totally a totally different animal¿other than both protagonists are single women who are very curious about everybody and everything and who have been left the financial means (by their respective fathers) to do pretty much what they want with their lives. Isabel Dalhousie sees a young man fall to his death. She is the last person he ¿sees¿ as he plummets past her in Usher Hall during an evening concert break. Isabel ponders the why of the tragic event and this leads her to some assumptions and a certain amount of intrigue until she eventually finds out what really happened. Isabel has a niece named Cat (lots of Cats around these days, it seems) who she loves as a daughter. A subplot in this book surrounds Isabel¿s dislike of Cat¿s current boyfriend, Toby. She much prefers old boyfriend, Jamie. She sticks her nose in this business as well and the results are¿well, you¿ll find out. This book is not a light read. It is full of Isabel¿s philosophical musings, particularly having to do with ethics. After all, she is the editor of Edinburgh¿s highly esteemed Review of Applied Ethics and, as such, spends a great deal of time reading papers presented to her for inclusion in the review. She often takes off on her own thoughts about the subject at hand. Some may find this ponderous and a bit abstruse (yes, there are lots of words like this in TSPC). Read it for what it is and keep a dictionary handy. While Isabel has some of Precious Ramotswe¿s fine characteristics as a person, this book is NOT The No. 1 Ladies¿ Detective Agency, Scottish edition! Carolyn Rowe Hill

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2005

    This is NOT the #1 Ladies Detective Agency!

    I so enjoyed listening to the Ladies Detective Agency series on CD -- that I listed to the The Sunday Philosophy Club on CD also, expecting a similar fun journey -- unfortunately, it is painful to listen to this book -- it jumps from topic to topic. While there is a thin thread throughout the story that connects most of the topics, it is too thin. At the end, I felt my time had been wasted.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2005

    disappointing

    I was really looking forward to reading this. I expected it to be as well written and delightful as the #1 Ladies Detective Agency books. It is dull and has none of the charm that the Precious books have. Unlikeable character, difficult to even finish.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2005

    The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCaul Smith

    I wasn¿t sure I was going to like this book, I had chosen it thinking it was another in the series of The Ladies Detective Agency. The main character is a Scottish philosopher and of course a mystery is involved. The characters were likeable, the story line was engaging, but I was only mildly interested in the philosophy angle. All in all, the book was an enjoyable read and I would read another in the series.

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