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The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds (Isabel Dalhousie Novels) Hardcover – 6 Sep 2012

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown (6 Sept. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408704145
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408704141
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 2.4 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 22,611 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alexander McCall Smith is one of the world's most prolific and most popular authors. His career has been a varied one: for many years he was a professor of Medical Law and worked in universities in the United Kingdom and abroad. Then, after the publication of his highly successful 'No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency' series, which has sold over twenty million copies, he devoted his time to the writing of fiction and has seen his various series of books translated into over forty-six languages and become bestsellers through the world. These include the Scotland Street novels, first published as a serial novel in The Scotsman, the Isabel Dalhousie novels, the Von Igelfeld series, and the Corduroy Mansions series, novels which started life as a delightful (but challenging to write) cross-media serial, written on the website of the Telegraph Media Group. This series won two major cross-media awards - Association of Online Publishers Digital Publishing Award 2009 for a Cross Media Project and the New Media Age award.

In addition to these series, Alexander writes stand-alone books. 2014 sees publication of three new novels which fall into this area: 'The Forever Girl'; 'Fatty O'Leary's Dinner Party'; and 'Emma' - a reworking of the classic Jane Austen novel. This year there will also be a stunning book on Edinburgh, 'A Work of Beauty: Alexander McCall Smith's Edinburgh'. Earlier stand alone novels include 'La's Orchestra Saves the World' and 'Trains and Lovers: A Hearts Journey'.

Alexander is also the author of collections of short stories, academic works, and over thirty books for children. He has received numerous awards for his writing, including the British Book Awards Author of the Year Award in 2004 and a CBE for service to literature in 2007. He holds honorary doctorates from nine universities in Europe and North America. In March of 2011 he received an award from the President of Botswana for his services through literature to that country.
Alexander McCall Smith lives in Edinburgh. He is married to a doctor and has two daughters.

Product Description

Book Description

In bestselling author Alexander McCall Smith's ninth tale of Isabel Dalhousie, Edinburgh philosopher and sleuth, the victim of an important art theft appeals to her for help.

From the Inside Flap

As a mother, wife, employer and editor of the Review of Applied Ethics - not to mention resident of Edinburgh, the birthplace of moral philosophy - Isabel Dalhousie is all too aware that to be human is to be responsible. So when a neighbour brings her a new and potentially dangerous puzzle to solve, once again Isabel feels she has no option but to shoulder the burden of other people's difficulties.

An exquisite masterpiece painting has been stolen from the collection of Duncan Munrowe, old-fashioned philanthropist, father to two discontented children, and a very wealthy man. As Isabel enters into negotiations with the shadowy figures who have come in search of a ransom, a case where heroes and villains should be clearly defined turns murky: the list of those who desire the painting - or the money - lengthens, and hasty judgement must be avoided at all cost. Morals, it turns out, are like Scottish clouds: complex, changeable and tricky to get a firm grip on; they require a sharp observational eye, a philosophical mindset, and the habit of kindness, and fortunately for those around her Isabel Dalhousie is in possession of all three.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Julia Flyte TOP 100 REVIEWER on 21 Oct. 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is the ninth installment in Alexander McCall Smith's series about Isabel Dalhousie, editor of an ethics magazine and occasional sleuth. The last couple of books in the series were somewhat of a disappointment to me, but I enjoyed this one considerably more. Whilst the plot is as slim as ever - centering on Isabel's efforts to assist in the retrieval of a stolen painting - the book weaves its gentle charm over you as you read it. The "action" is interspersed with Isabel's musings on subjects as diverse as how to deal with rudeness in others, with whether we owe more to the people who live near us than people abroad and how to deal with conflict in marriages. I think what I like most about this series is the way it gets you thinking about the simple ways that you can live a more considerate life, about the importance of manners and kindness, without feeling that you are being preached to.

While many familiar characters make an appearance in the book - Grace has a falling out with Isabel and Eddie has romantic problems - others are barely mentioned, if at all. Cat is largely absent (hooray! no unsuitable boyfriends for once), as are Professors Dove and Lettuce. I was grateful for this, as it made the book feel less formulaic. I remain unconvinced by Isabel's relationships with Jamie and Charlie. Neither to me feel realistic, but at least her relationship with Jamie is made up of a little more this time round than just thinking about how lucky she is to have him.

I'm giving the book 3 stars because I liked, it but never found it terribly compelling and I suspect that in a week's time I'll be struggling to remember any of it. Having said that, I think that fans of the series will definitely enjoy it.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Barbara Farrelly on 13 Sept. 2012
Format: Hardcover
Over the previous eight books we have come to regard Isabel Dalhousie as a friend. We have been there when she fell in love and married Jamie, the beautiful young bassoonist discarded by Isabel's niece, Cat. We have barracked for her when two sinister colleagues, professors Dove and Lettuce, have tried to derail her stellar career as a philosopher.
We have been in the nursery in her upper middle-class Edinburgh home as she raises Charlie, now aged three and three-quarters, helped by the loyal family retainer Grace, who attends a spiritualist church. We have listened in to her conversations with Brother Fox, the vulpine visitor she welcomes into her rhododendron dotted garden.
At the heart of each book is a mystery that persuades Isabel to put on her sleuthing hat and guide us through a moral minefield. Nothing gritty like Taggart or Trainspotting, but a mystery that turns on human nature and our flaws.
In these tender tales embroidered with W.H. Auden's poetry and illustrated with Scottish artists like Henry Raeburn, Alexander McCall Smith has won over a legion of new fans to add to the many millions who buy his books, especially The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.
In The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds, Isabel looks up at the sky. People ask her to do things for them. She has no idea why. What did they think she was? A private detective? An agony aunt? No. She was editor of the Review of Applied Ethics.
Duncan Munrowe's forebears made their pile with rubber plantations in Malaya.
The family seat in Scotland was open to the public on occasions and a thief had taken the opportunity to steal a valuable Poussin. Duncan intended to transfer the painting he so loved to the National Gallery of Scotland. Could Isabel broker a deal with the thieves?
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By mj on 27 Dec. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The original novel of this series was excellent; gentle but appealing and definitely of an intellectual bent. However, I think that McCall Smith is churning them out now rather as he does the Ladies Detective Agency and Scotland Street stories. Good to borrow from a library when in need of light entertainment but not worth buying and keeping.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Blue in Washington TOP 500 REVIEWERTOP 1000 REVIEWER on 6 Dec. 2012
Format: Hardcover
In "The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds" Isabel Dalhousie is still agreeably pondering life's interesting questions, but I think author Alexander MCall-Smith has recalibrated slightly the sharpness of the characters and the intensity of the protagonist's challenges and relationships with other story characters. For that reason, this ninth episode of the series seemed an improvement over its immediate predecessor (in my opinion).

"The Uncommon..." involves Isabel in the recovery of a stolen painting by Nicolas Poussin--an artwork worth several million pounds/euros/dollars that was destined to be a gift to the National Gallery of Scotland. The resolution of the theft is definitely connected to a complicated set of family relationships involving the painting's owner and his son, daughter and her fiance. Is the theft about money, sibling rivalry or oedipal angst? Isabel forces a catharsis in the matter.

Also at the center of this episode is young Eddie, assistant to Isabel's niece Cat and gradually recovering from some childhood trauma that has left him with little self-esteem. This time around, Eddie has gone through some big changes after an American road trip, and connecting with a local lass. A big problem threatens his progress and Isabel steps in to help.

Meanwhile, Isabel's immediate family has a full platter of domestic issues to sort out. Husband Jamie (still uncomfortably perfect) has a wee bit more to say this time around and it helps to make him a credible partner to Isabel the non pareil philosopher. So bravo Jamie. Much of the marital interchange is about the maturing of son Charlie, now three plus years old, and very much a communicating human being.
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