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Posts Tagged ‘Alexander McCall Smith’

The Careful Use Of Compliments (Isabel Dalhousie Novels Book 4)

Isabel Dalhousie enjoys her job as editor of the Journal of Applied Ethics but she is upset by a letter telling her she is to be replaced as editor.  She find she is much more upset about it than she might have thought. Meanwhile she is settling down into single motherhood and looking after baby Charlie with the help of housekeeper, Grace and the boy’s father, Jamie.  But Isabel wants to try and repair her relationship with her niece, Cat who feels Isabel has stolen Jamie from her even though she herself had broken up with him some time before he fell in love with Isabel.

In addition Isabel has become interested in some paintings which she thinks may be forgeries and she takes a trip to the Isle of Jura with Jamie and Charlie to try and work out whether her theory is correct.  This is a gentle read with plenty of philosophical speculations about aspects of everyday life.  The excruciating dinner party is really well written and will make you cringe and feel the embarrassment as though you were actually there.

If you’re wanting to read books which are fast paced with lots of action, then you won’t enjoy this one.  But if enjoy books which are light reads on the surface but which cause you to think about every day life then you may enjoy this one as well as the rest of the books in this series.  This is the fourth book in the Isabel Dalhousie series.

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The Right Attitude To Rain (Isabel Dalhousie Novels Book 3)

Isabel Dalhousie is wary of emotional relationships because of an early experience with a faithless husband but she has no doubts about a little quiet investigation from time to time.  Now she is faced with several quandaries.  Her niece, Cat, is in love with someone who seems more interested in his work and his mother.  She has a cousin staying with her for a month and she receives an unexpected invitation to a house party hosted by a couple whom Isabel feels are ill suited and who may actually cause each other harm.

Now Isabel is faced with a moral and philosophical dilemma.  She is falling in love with Jamie – Cat’s former boyfriend and fourteen years younger than herself.  Should she ignore her own feelings?  This story resonated with me in a very personal way having had a close relationship with a man fourteen years younger than myself.  I could sympathise with Isabel’s worries and insecurities and with her excitement and happiness.

Throughout the book there is the philosophical idea that we should accept things we can do nothing about such as the rain.  We can’t stop it raining so we should just accept it.  Many things in life are like that.  This is a lovely, thoughtful love story as well as an intriguing gently mystery mixed with philosophical thoughts on all sorts of every day events. This is the third book in the Isabel Dalhousie series.

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Friends, Lovers, Chocolate (Isabel Dalhousie Novels Book 2)

Isabel Dalhousie is standing in for her niece, Cat, at the delicatessen.  While she is working there she gets into conversation with a man who has had a heart transplant and is plagued by visions of a man he does not know.  This intrigues Isabel and she sets out to find the cause of them which seem to be linked to the transplant.  Cat returns to Edinburgh bringing a fascinating man with her.  Naturally Isabel can’t resist interfering – for all the right reasons.

This book grew on me. As with the first book in the series, it is a gentle intriguing mystery with plenty of philosophical speculation and conversation. I love Grace – Isabel’s dour housekeeper – who has become interested in a man she has met at her spiritualist meetings.  Some may find the philosophy in this story a little boring but I found it made me stop and think about things I had never spent much time on before.

I enjoy listening to this series in audio book format as they make the listener slow down and think about what they are hearing.  I suspect Isabel is a character you either love or hate and I love her.  She blunders in where angels fear to tread and frequently get things wrong but there is still something endearing about her. This is the second book in the series.

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The Sunday Philosophy Club (Isabel Dalhousie Novels Book 1)

Isabel Dalhousie is editor of the Review of Applied Ethics and she also hosts the meetings of the Sunday Philosophy Club.  She attends a concert at the Usher Hall at which a young man falls to his death from the gods.  It seems to be an accident but Isabel is far from sure about it and she finds herself almost against her will trying to investigate.

Interspersed with musings on various philosophical aspects of every day life and relationships, this is an intriguing mystery in which Isabel shows that you can investigate crimes and while still keeping to your philosophical principles.  Some people may find the pace of this mystery a little slow but it repays slowing down while you are reading and absorbing what the book is saying about life, love and crime.

I listened to the audio version and found I was slowing down and thinking about what the book was saying apart from enjoying the investigation of the mystery.  I liked Isabel Dalhousie as a characters and I’m looking forward to hearing more about her. This is an interesting and enjoyable start to a series.

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Precious and Grace (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Book 17)

Precious Ramotswe and Grace Makutsi have been working together for years to solve other people’s problems but now they have a case which threatens to divide them.  They each thing they’re right but they both could be wrong.  Susan wants to find someone who was her nursemaid thirty years ago and the only evidence she has is a blurred photograph taken in front of a house. She says she wants to relive her happiest times but is that really what she wants to do?

Then there’s the lost dog which Fanwell brings home and the No 1 Detective Agency’s old enemy, Violet Sephoto – what is she up to now?  Mr Polpetsi – the agency’s part time detective seems to have to got himself into something potentially disastrous and needs extricating before too much damage is done.  There is plenty going on in this seventeenth book in this gentle and entertaining series.

I have read all the books in this series and always look forward to the latest one.  I love the way problems are solved with a minimum of fuss and the way the major characters try and behave well and treat their fellow human beings with care and courtesy.   Mma Ramotswe is a marvellous character who has well developed powers of observation and knowledge of human nature.  She is a peacemaker to the more volatile Mma Makutsi who has very strongly held views which threaten to get out of hand at times.

If you want to read crime stories set against a background of a slower and simpler way of life then try this series.  They are best read in the order in which they were published – starting with ‘The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency.

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The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency)

I have always been a fan of the No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series and this latest book lives up to all my expectations.  Mma Ramotswe is persuaded to take a holiday and to leave Mma Makutsi in charge of the detective agency.

Unused to holidays Precious finds herself at rather a loose end and she really wants to know what is going on in her absence. Fortunately a part time occasional assistant – Mr Polopetsi asks for her help in a difficult case and together they investigate a dead man’s reputation with mixed results.

Mma Ramotswe also helps a small boy, Samuel whom she meets on her travels and learns several lessons about trusting her friends and admitting to mistakes of judgement. This is an entertaining read and one which reminds the reader that life really is very simple when you look at it properly and we often make things much more complicated than they need to be.

I find this series always reminds me that people are basically good and that approaching life in an open minded way can pay huge dividends as can all the traditional virtues of honesty, kindness, courtesy and caring for others. This series is the ideal antidote to our often far too cynical and sophisticated culture.

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The Handsome Man's De Luxe Café (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Book 15)

Business is not actually booming for the detective agency or for the garage business and Mr J L B Maketoni can no longer afford to pay both his staff and Charlie has to go.  Precious has taken on a case that she is really not at all sure about and her assistant – now partner – Grace Makutsi has decided to open a café.

Will things improve for all the businesses concerned and can Precious solve the case of the woman who apparently has lost her memory without getting into trouble with the immigration authorities.  There are plenty of life lessons to be learned in this thoughtful but amusing episode in the life of the number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.

I do like this series which are really modern morality tales.  Yes the writing is simple and straightforward but how to get on with the other people in your life is the same however sophisticated and grown up you think you are.

I didn’t think this latest story was quite as good as previous ones but then sometimes they improve on second reading.  I always find them amusing with plenty of food for thought and insight into human behaviour and motivation,  If you want something gentle in the mystery line then you could do worse than read this. While it helps to understand the series characters if you’ve read previous books in the series they don’t have to be read in order and can be read as standalone novels.

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