The Sunday Philosophy Club (Isabel Dalhousie Series #1)

The Sunday Philosophy Club (Isabel Dalhousie Series #1)

by Alexander McCall Smith


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The Sunday Philosophy Club (Isabel Dalhousie Series #1) by Alexander McCall Smith

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400077090
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/12/2005
Series: Isabel Dalhousie Series , #1
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 161,672
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

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).


Edinburgh, Scotland

Date of Birth:

August 24, 1948

Place of Birth:


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 . . ."


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.

From the Hardcover edition.

Reading Group Guide


“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

The introduction, discussion questions, suggestions for further reading, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your group’s conversation about The Sunday Philosophy Club, the first book in a new series by the marvelous Alexander McCall Smith, creator of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.

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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The Sunday Philosophy Club (Isabel Dalhousie Series #1) 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 67 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A bit deep and "philosophical" at first, but then you get to love Isabel and it pure entertainment from there on.
danadobry More than 1 year ago
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.
karategrl More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
heidialice on LibraryThing 2 days ago
The first in McCall Smith's latest series, starring Isabel Dalhousie as a part-time philosopher and an amateur detective. A man's mysterious death at a concert hall leads her to investigate the threads of his life involving people from different social strata in Edinburgh. More about decisions and consequences than the mystery itself, there is some suspense and the whodunit result is reasonably surprising.The tone and style is about halfway between two of his other series, No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and 44 Scotland Street. It plumbs the depths a bit more than the latter, but the story is not as well-plotted as in the former. Overall, a very enjoyable and quick read as usual, with a few laugh-out-loud moments.
Lman on LibraryThing 2 days ago
The Sunday Philosophy Club could, more aptly, be titled The Philosophical Musings of Isabel Dalhousie; like all Alexander McCall Smith books I have read, the main character drives the story with her sentiments and beliefs in life.Isabel Dalhousie, the editor of the Review of Applied Ethics, spends her time in Edinburgh constantly reflecting on the minutia of her life through her own ethical and honourable compass. When at a concert one night, she witnesses a young man fall to his death, which sets off a moral obligation on her part to investigate such a dreadful event. Independently wealthy, with a university education in philosophy, a failed marriage and now living alone, Isabel has numerous friends: foremost being her niece Cat, her housekeeper Grace, and Jamie, a former boyfriend of Cat¿s, who Isabel is particularly fond of; all of whom enhance and complicate Isabel¿s attitudes to the predicaments in which she inevitably places herself. For, regardless of her philosophical propensity, Isabel is as human and vulnerable, and subject to the same idiosyncrasies, as anyone else. Thus she meddles in affairs not strictly her business, forms strong opinions, but is an astute and intelligent woman who is quick to realise her own inadequacies and faults, whilst shrewdly assessing others - including crushed-strawberry corduroy trousers! I have always considered Alexander McCall Smith¿s books contain more of a sociological bent than belonging to a crime genre. This book, to my mind, is a leisurely ramble through the society of today, using Isabel to allow sharp, perceptive reflections and contemplations of, perhaps, the author¿s notions of life nowadays. If, like me, you lament the loss of politeness and the lack of moral fibre seeping into our lives, you will, undoubtedly also enjoy and relate to this book. If you find this loss incomprehensible, along with an incongruousness for the inability of a Sunday Philosophy Club to ever meet; then this book is not for you.Another lovely gentle read; to soothe and solace ¿ a balm for the soul.
nickhoonaloon on LibraryThing 2 days ago
I persevered with this one, hoping it would improve, but it never did.I am intrigued as to why not. The first chapter is remarkably strong, containing two of those little insights which are what I look for in writers, both taking place after a young man falls to his death in a theatre. One is a bit obvious , but still effective and true to life - "The woman looked at Isabel with that sudden human intimacy that the witnessing of tragedy permitted", the other appears as the aforementioned Isabel talks to a Policeman - "It was a reproach, but not a severe one, as he saw that she was upset. For she was shaking now. He was familiar with that. Something happened and people began to shake. It was the reminder that frightened them ; the reminder of just how close to the edge we are in life, always, at every moment."It seems to me you need a certain attitude of mind to pick up on these points. How an accomplished writer who clearly does have that attitude of mind can`t make a half-way decent book out of it is beyond me.No doubt this tale of a philosopher with an interest in applied ethics failing to apply ethics to real-life despite her best, most earnest endeavours, is intended as a gentle satire. Rightly or wrongly, it creates the impression that the writer is as solipsistic as his characters.What makes it worse is, I really wanted to like it !
wyvernfriend on LibraryThing 2 days ago
Interesting read, although not quite as complete as I might like. In Edinburgh Isabel witnesses a fall in a concert hall where a man dies, she has questions as to whether it's an accident or deliberate and starts to look into it. It is obviously a first book in a series setting up further books in the series to follow on from this.
magst on LibraryThing 6 days ago
I did not like this book at all! None of the characters were likable, especially the main character Isabel Dalhousie. She was lacking in many areas. She might have book smarts, but she had no common sense at all. By the end of the book, I was furious. The "mystery" part of this novel was not a mystery at all. The author leaves a bunch of red herrings to confuse and excite you. I will never pick up another book from this series again.
Riska on LibraryThing 8 days ago
If you are a recovering Philosophy Major, and a fan of the United Kingdom, I think you'll get a kick out of this book. An applied ethicist who solves mysteries. The mystery was fairly minor, however, and the book title is an excellent joke that runs through the book. Really, the book is about the people more than the plot. A very entertaining read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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
Bartholomew_Wood More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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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