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The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds (Isabel Dalhousie Novels) [Hardcover]

Alexander McCall Smith
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 Sep 2012 Isabel Dalhousie Novels (Book 9)

As a mother, wife, employer and editor of the Review of Applied Ethics, Isabel Dalhousie is 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.

A masterpiece painting has been stolen from 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 are 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. Fortunately for those around her, Isabel Dalhousie is in possession of all three.


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown (6 Sep 2012)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 1408704145
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408704141
  • Product Dimensions: 0.3 x 18.6 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 245,749 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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gentle and heart warming 21 Oct 2012
By Julia Flyte TOP 50 REVIEWER
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Time for a change 12 Aug 2014
By Andrew
Format:Paperback
As a big fan of the 44 Scotland Street books I sought out the Isobel Dalhousie novels. This will be the last one I ever read. Enough is enough.

One does not read AMS for realism but the Dalhousie books really do push it a bit.

The woman is barely forty - over ten years younger than I am - yet seems to inhabit a world about 50- years out of date. I fear that she would find most people dreadfully vulgar and she seems the type to be most put out by the most trivial things. It is impossible that such a creature would exist in modern Scotland and be of the generation she is supposed to represent - even allowing for her affluence. Impossibly grand, colossally condescending and almost terminally socially constipated she belongs to the era when ladies wore gloves and would simply be unable to function in the modern world. The idea that such a woman would be able to produce a child or indulge in the necessary vulgarity to do so - even with a magnificent much younger lover to do the honours - seems unlikely.

Having lived in Edinburgh most of my life I simply find Isobel Dalhousie to be an anachronism, or more properly a cartoon of upper middle class life that has not existed for over half a century.

This is a problem that The Lady detective novels also share - am I the only person who finds these insufferably patronising and not a little racist?

Ah well, there's always Bertie and 44 Scotland street
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A small masterpiece 13 Sep 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?
Read more ›
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much Dalhousie? 27 Dec 2012
By mj
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Alexander McCall Smih Fan.
Great book as always from Alexander McCall Smith. Looking forward to reading further books from this author.
Published 4 days ago by Denise Welton
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
This appeals in all weather conditions!
Published 20 days ago by Salsalin
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Arrived in good order - what more could I want?
Published 1 month ago by Mr. L. Osbourne
4.0 out of 5 stars A pleasurable relaxing read with philosophy we can all understand.
I have enjoyed every one of the Dalhousie novels, and this joins the ranks of the others as a "feel-good" easy read. I look forward to the following tale in the series.
Published 3 months ago by Mr. B. Hewlett
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Last Isabel Dalhousie book. Though may I still hope for more?
Published 3 months ago by tonje lovang
5.0 out of 5 stars warm and appealing
I have read many books from Alexander McCall Smith. I like this book most because it captures the mind of the little boy Charlie and how he sees the world. Read more
Published 4 months ago by book worm
5.0 out of 5 stars Just as good as his other books
The book was easy to order and delivered before the due date.
If you like his books you wont be disappointed. I have now read all his stories, that are in print.
Published 4 months ago by Jenni Stephens
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, but too high a proportion of reflective passages to action
This story was based around a gentle investigation, and, with a philosophical person as main character, I expected some thinking aloud. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Fritha
5.0 out of 5 stars Alexander McCall Smith
Always the fun, light hearted read that you get from Alexander McCall Smith. Just wish I could read as fast as he writes.
Published 7 months ago by Helen Lincolnshire
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read
Along the same line as the others in the series . Easy to read and interesting sub plot about a stolen painting.
Published 7 months ago by alison pearce
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