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.
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
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.
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.
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
“Genial.... Wise.... Glows like a rare jewel.” —Entertainment Weekly
“The literary equivalent of herbal tea and a cozy fire. . . . McCall Smith’s Scotland [is] well worth future visits.” —The New York Times
“In Mma Ramotswe, [McCall Smith] minted one of the most memorable heroines in any modern fiction. Now, with the creation of Isabel Dalhousie . . . he’s done it again. . . . She’s such good company, it’s hard to believe she’s fictional. You finish this installment greedily looking forward to more.” —Newsweek
“Charmingly told. . . . Its graceful prose shines, and Isabel's interior monologues—meditations on a variety of moral questions—are bemused, intelligent and entertaining.” —The Seattle Times
“Endearing. . . . Offers tantalizing glimpses of Edinburgh’s complex character and a nice, long look into the beautiful mind of a thinking woman.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Fans of Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novels will delight in this new series, featuring as its heroine the tart-tongued, tartan-clad problem-solver Isabel Dalhousie. The book club will love it.” —Life
“Whimsical. . . . [A] memorable cast of characters. . . . McCall Smith’s assessments of fellow humans are piercing and profound. . . . [His] depictions of Edinburgh are vivid and seamless. . . . His fans . . . are sure to embrace these moral peregrinations among the plaid.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“A mystery of moral responsibility and manners . . . [with] memorable minor characters, [an] intriguing, troubled heroine, local color and bracing Scottish patter.” —Newsday
“Habit-forming. . . .The Sunday Philosophy Club leaves plenty of time for pondering moral conundrums, the drinking of steaming cups of hot brew (coffee, in this case) and . . . gentle probing into the human condition.” —The Oregonian
“So believable. . . . The great pleasures of [The Sunday Philosophy Club] have to do with Smith's wry, gentle writing applied to intriguing plots more curious or humorous than dramatic. . . . Precious Ramotswe has found a kindred spirit.” —The Columbus Dispatch
“Alexander McCall Smith has become one of those commodities, like oil or chocolate or money, where the supply is never sufficient to the demand. . . . [He] is prolific and habit-forming. . . . [His] gift, one of them, is to inspire an eagerness to follow. . . . McCall Smith has done his job. Isabel lives. A series is born.” —The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
“Like walking down the street with an amazingly literate, thoughtful, witty and self-deprecating friend through a city that friend knows and loves well.” —The Times-Picayune (New Orleans)
“Skillfully written. . . . Smith’s Scotland . . . is a place where a profound, humane intelligence is at work.” New York Daily News
“Mr. Smith, a fine writer, paints his hometown of Edinburgh as indelibly as he captures the sunniness of Africa. We can almost feel the mists as we tread the cobblestones.” —The Dallas Morning News
“Memorable. . . . The Sunday Philosophy Club will delight McCall Smith's existing fans and win him some new ones.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Charming. . . . Suspenseful. . . . A pleasant introduction to a woman readers will want to know more about.” —Detroit Free Press
“A quiet mystery aimed in equal parts at the head and the heart.” —The Patriot News (Harrisburg, PA)
“Devotees of Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series are certain to enjoy these new people and this new place. . . . To know Isabel Dalhousie is to like and admire her.” —Chicago Tribune
“Readers will be immediately smitten with the interplay between the philosopher, her tradition-bound housekeeper Grace and her unlucky in-love niece Cat.” —Ft. Myers News-Press
“An elegant mystery filled not with dead bodies but an air of gentle refinement, intelligence and insight. . . . Isabel is a true original.” —Orlando Sentinel