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From the Stacks: Alexander McCall Smith’s “The Sunday Philosophy Club”

Reviews of books borrowed from the stacks of the Carlsbad City Library, with links to the online catalog

Genre
Mystery – British, a nontraditional cozy

Escape experience
You are an independently wealthy, part-time editor-in-chief of a journal on applied ethics. You live alone yet are never lonely, embraced by a circle of close friends who think most highly of you. Home lies in the heart of present-day Edinburgh, Scotland, in an established yet comfortably cozy manse whose yellow bricks have softened into a dignified gray (it’s your childhood home – sans mortgage, naturally). Every day, you awaken to the luxury of your housekeeper bringing your tea and the morning paper. You have the time to do the crossword, correspond with friends (handwritten notes, never barbaric emails or text messages), take leisurely walks through town, etc. To you, rush hour is a foreign concept, as are workplace stress and multi-tasking.

Read this if you’re into…
Ruminating over the ethics of everyday life and indulging in prolonged internal monologues over a mish-mash of topics that encompass the sublime, the mundane or the downright silly (is it ethical to take bread from a breakfast buffet to eat for lunch later? is over-indulgence in chocolate morally wrong?). You think this way because you have a love and respect for all living things: you feel duty-bound to do what’s morally right towards your neighbors (in the global sense, that is, extending far beyond the physical boundaries of your street, your town, your region). It is this characteristic which draws people to you: you truly care about others.

Plot
A man plunges to his death from the upper circle of the Royal Usher Concert Hall – passing right in front of Isabel Dalhousie’s eyes. Was it an accident? Did he lean over the railing and suddenly slip? Or was he pushed? Isabel’s curiosity compels her to investigate and delve into the private lives of art collectors and financiers, strangers, friends and lovers.

Pace: Reading this is like walking in a pair of…
Warm, fuzzy slippers, toddling from the kitchen to the library, to settle in a deep, squishy armchair. There's a fire in the hearth, a cup of hot chocolate on hand and WH Auden and Franz Schubert for company.

 

Cast of characters

  • Isabel Dalhousie – Editor of the Journal of Applied Ethics, a forty-something Carrie-Bradshaw-meets-Emma-Woodhouse-with-a-PhD, Isabel feels morally bound to involve herself in the lives of others.
  • Cat – Isabel’s attractive niece, who, in her mid-20s, owns and runs a delicatessen and has a fatal attraction for rakes, roués and cads
  • Jaime – Young and handsome (in the Mediterranean-god fashion), Jaime plays bassoon for the Edinburgh Orchestra and serves as Isabel’s sounding board. Jaime carries a torch for Cat… Cat for Toby… and Isabel for Jaime. Hmmm...
  • Grace – Isabel’s acerbic housekeeper, with a Scotswoman's sensibilities and a surprising interest in spiritualism
  • Brother Fox – Isabel’s furry, curious backyard tenant

 

Books in the series  

  1. The Sunday Philosophy Club 
  2. Friends, Lovers, Chocolate 
  3. The Right Attitude to Rain 
  4. The Careful Use of Compliments 
  5. The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday 
  6. The Lost Art of Gratitude 
  7. The Charming Quirks of Others 
  8. The Perils of Morning Coffee (eBook only
  9. The Forgotten Affairs of Youth  

 

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