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4.3 out of 5 stars57
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 30 March 2013
A little secret, I love Isabel Dalhousie, but I read a couple of poor reviews about this book and decided that I couldn't bear to watch her go to seed so I didn't buy it for ages. Then I read the next one in the series and decided to take a chance on this. I can't believe I trusted poor reviews. I appreciate this guy's writing so much. He makes me smile and laugh out loud. Unfortunately, much to my wife's annoyance, it is not always easy to describe what is so funny, I just laugh for joy at the brilliance of the writing sometimes. I read one of the sentences in here three times trying to work out why it was so clever. He could have put the words in a more straightforward way and it would have made perfect sense, but it just wouldn't have had half the power to make you smile.
Reading this reminded me of visiting Hidcote Gardens many years ago. I spent the day exploring and only when I left at the end did I realise that I hadn't explored at all, the clever but subtle design had led me exactly where the master had intended I would go. You get the same feeling with Mr McCall Smith, you have been taken by the hand and led down the route he wants you to go, and you are always the richer for following. Can't wait for next one now. Will we ever find out what happened to Eddie...?
One bad point: the new design on the covers makes them look like chick lit. I would never pick up a book that looked like that (not the one shown on this page, the newer one). Unless, of course, it was written by Alexander McCall Smith.
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on 23 April 2011
I'm not sure what's happened to the real Isabel Dalhousie, but the main protagonist of this novel appears to be a simulacrum provided by aliens. Normally Isabel muses often, giving the reader food for thought on moral and ethical questions and standpoints, then takes action. The Isabel in this novel is almost a parody of the usual character. Less than musing, she maunders. The "investigation" she undertakes is slight in the extreme, and her conclusions about at least one of the persons under investigation are divorced from any evidence or from any possible intuitive leap - she simply makes up a rather ludicrous and entirely false chain of events from whole cloth. Not like the Isabel we know and love.

As for her philosophical musings (or maunderings), if she carries on at this rate a next Dalhousie novel will consist of 200 pages describing her in a fugue state, trying to decide whether or not to sugar her coffee: "Should I sugar it and ignore the advice provided by the Government about obesity and diabetes, or should I not sugar it and put livelihoods at risk in the sugar industry...?"

Mr McCall Smith - Isabel needs to shape up and return to her earlier decisiveness (even the Lettuce/Dove situation in this one was resolved entirely by Jamie) and, whisper it, become a little less perfect: the situation with Jamie's colleague was blindingly obvious to any reader and would have tried the patience of a whole hagiography, but not too-perfect Isabel.

Very definitely not the best Isabel Dalhousie novel. New readers, do not start with this one!
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"The Charming Quirks of Others" takes Edinburgh's resident philosopher, Isabel Dalhousie, a few steps further down the path of her mostly idyllic life. As is her wont, Isabel examines the small moments of living and ponders the moral ramifications of her every interaction with others, striving for fairness and charity. Said in this way, it sounds a bit contrived and dry, but author Alexander McCall-Smith has the skill to present his heroine and her moral musings in ways that make them relevant and enjoyable for everyone.

Having put in a good word for the estimable Isabel and for the overall enjoyability of this particular book, I have to add that there are moments in "Quirks" where it would not have surprised me if our heroine's SO, Jamie, had turned to her and said, "Just let it go!". These were the several moments Isabel went into some very deep navel diving when acting on simple common sense would have done fine. Her well-known misreading of human nature is also present in this story. But it is a trait that is long since built in to the character and therefore expected and forgivable.

This is not a ground-breaking book in the series, but comfortable and entertaining. If you're a fan of these books, don't miss it.
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on 5 October 2010
Up to now I have enjoyed all the Isabel Dalhousie books but this one, the latest, was a great disappointment. There was very little plot, the book was extended with Isabel's musings which became very tedious after a while. What a shame!
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on 15 November 2010
I have enjoyed the majority of Alexander McCall Smith's books and especially the Isabel Dalhousie series. I must say that this book was very disappointing. There wasn't much of a plot and it just seemed to drag on. Usually I can't put the book down but on this occasion I very nearly stopped reading it. Such a shame!
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on 24 November 2010
This latest book about Isabel Dalhouse made me realise how much I started to love this woman, she has an impact on my life and I think that that is the purpose of Mr. McCall Smith. This world would get a little better if we would try to look at both sides of people and their problems.
But it was also good to see how disturbed even Isabel Dalhouse gets when she suspects her friend and lover to be untrue, even for a very short time, it made her more human!
I must say that Charlie seems too good to be true as an infant, I wonder if Mr. McCall Smith has children, but then Isabel has a great help in Grace, and Jamie takes care of him too.
Mr. Alexander McCall Smith always touches me with his kind way of describing life in all its facets, thank you so much for this. Since I started to read the No 1 Ladies Detective Bureau, I have been waiting for your next book!
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VINE VOICEon 9 February 2012
This Isabel Dalhousie novel was still charming and thoughtful, just not as gripping as some of the others. Isabel is asked to vet three candidates for the headship of a nearby boarding school, feeling obliged she takes it on and finds the affair complicated by one of them being her neice Cat's new boyfriend. Juggling life with baby Charlie, partner Jamie, plans for weddings, work for the Review of Applied Ethics and the machinations of her nemesis Christopher Dove, this is a low key reflection on the subject of family, and of the place of gossip in a small community which Edinburgh, despite it's status as a city, is beneath the surface. Deftly written.
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on 5 October 2011
Having read the previous Isabel Dalhousie books and enjoyed her philosphical meanderings, I was a bit iritated by her this time - maybe because she's in love and at the moment everything is so nice and lovely! The green-ink letter detective work could have been more in depth, but at least a bit of sharpness came into play in the relationship with Cat, her niece. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series to see what happens with the Philosophy journal - perhaps a bit of aggro with the contributors will balance all the luvvy duvvy stuff with Jamie!
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on 17 January 2012
This continuation of the Isabel Dalhousie novels was an enjoyable read. Against a believable background of contemporary Edinburgh, the plot combined well the reflections and doubts experienced by Isabel as she worked towards a resolution of the challenges faced. The story took some interesting twists and turns, as one expects in Alexander McCall Smith's novels. Progress of the story was at times somewhat slowed by the philosophical reflections, but conclusions were reached. I enjoyed this novel, and look forward to the next one.
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on 24 September 2011
I have been reading these books for some time. At first I found Isobel's "perfect" life annoying and self satisfied but I now understand her quirks and weaknesses and find these endearing to some degree - but she is still smug with her life. It has made me want to visit Edinburgh and look a the village life she describes if only from a distance. Makes London seem brash and unsophisticated. Worth giving it a go but go back to beginning to get a full picture of her life and characters in the book
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