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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A small masterpiece
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...
Published on 13 Sep 2012 by Barbara Farrelly

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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gentle and heart warming
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...
Published on 21 Oct 2012 by Julia Flyte


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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gentle and heart warming, 21 Oct 2012
By 
Julia Flyte - See all my reviews
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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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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A small masterpiece, 13 Sep 2012
By 
Barbara Farrelly (Australia) - See all my reviews
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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?
Isabel's mind flits from the propriety of eating fish while stocks are dwindling to settle on the nature of wrongdoers. She concludes criminals, in and out of uniform or in and out of public office, are bullies, prepared to take by force to achieve their goals.
By his acts, the criminal effectively says to the victim `you don't matter'. Whole nations say it to other nations. `You do not matter. You do not count'.
The thieves want Duncan Munrowe's insurance company to pay for the return of the painting, a dubious but common practice.
Isabel has other ideas. She is after all, an ideas person.
Highly recommended.
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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
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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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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Back on form, 6 Sep 2012
By 
Bluebell (UK) - See all my reviews
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Some readers were disappointed by the previous book in the series and, while I enjoyed it, I too felt that the story was weaker than earler ones and that perhaps the material had run its course and the author was losing interest. I'm glad to say that in this latest book the author is back on form. There's a page-turning central story in which philosopher/sleuth Isabel Dalhousie gets involved in the recovery of a stolen painting. Along the way we learn about the continuing lives of the main characters. Isabel and Jamie's son, Charlie, seems to have precocious mathematical abilities, but it turns out that Grace, the housekeeper has something to do with it. Isabel's niece, Cat, takes a back seat in this book but her assistant in the deli, Eddie, figures prominently as he seeks Isabel's help over two personal matters. Woven into the biographical and sleuthing features of the novel are McCall Smith's hallmark insertions of interesting facts and accessible philosophical conumdrums that Isabel wreasles with. Sometimes Isabel seems too good to be true but it's a novelty to have a contented and kindly heroine as the central character. Some may bridle at the comfortable upper-middle class life depicted but I don't read these books for gritty realism, but as a welcome antidote to the worries of the world.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Reflections on the Examined Life, 16 Nov 2012
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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"You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another." -- Leviticus 19:11 (NKJV)

Reading about Isabel Dalhousie is a lot like paying attention to the mental chatter in your own mind, as you waver over what to do in trying and morally difficult circumstances. The main difference is that Isabel's life is filled with love and loving thoughts, rather than just annoyances.

In this outing, Isabel is presented with the challenge of a painting that's been stolen and is being offered back in exchange for a reward from the insurance company. What's the right thing to do? Isabel's answer may interest you. I certainly enjoyed it.

Another challenge arises when Charlie begins to show arithmetic skills ahead of his years. As more is learned, the questions to be answered increase. I think you'll enjoy this set of moral questions as well.

I thought that the more interesting questions in the book revolved directly and indirectly about what it means to be a good parent. The stolen art seemed more like a hypothetical that professors like to use in ethics classes than a credible event for such a novel.

There are also some seemingly hair-splitting decisions involving making representations that may or may not be the whole truth. I wasn't convinced by the author's arguments.

This ninth novel in the series won't rock your boat, but it will certainly go down smoothly ... like some fine scones and clotted cream at tea time.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Time for a change, 12 Aug 2014
This review is from: The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds: 9 (Isabel Dalhousie Novels) (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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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Testing the loyalty of fans!, 7 Feb 2013
By 
I. Shepherd - See all my reviews
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I'm a great fan of AMS - I've read most of his books and always find them an enjoyable, easy read. The Isobel Dalhousie (aka The Sunday Philosophy Club)novels are perhaps my favourite. Through the novels, I have got to know the characters and (sadly)really do care about them!

However, AMS books are usually thin affairs as regards plot and it strikes me that this latest instalment gets the record for the thinnest. Smith doesn't even give us a conclusive ending. The long-running 'dark secret' that Eddie carries is partly revealed, but again Smith doesn't quite tell the whole story. Was it an AIDS test?

With apologies to AMS.....how to write an Isabel Dalhousie novel:

1. Think of a suitably quirky title e.g. 'The Healing Properties of Toast'
2. Allude to the title several times during the novel e.g. 'Toast with no jam - how cruel life can be. But now Jamie was her jam, or perhaps, she wondered, her toast'.
3. Sprinkle in odd references to 'brother fox', 'sainted American mother, 'Professor Lettuce, 'olives' and, of course, WHA.
4. On one sheet of notepaper, sketch out the main plot.
5. Add one more (or possibly two) sub-plots.
6. Scour the dictionary for some words that the reader will not understand and have to use a dictionary.
7. Choose a few topics that you can muse on - they don't have to have anything to do with the plot.
8. Insert all data into the computer, load up the AMS novel creation program and ....a few minutes later you have about 240 pages!!!!!!

I really do hope that in the next novel AMS does something a little different rather than plough the same small patch of earth over and over again. But, I'll buy it nontheless!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Easy reading, 11 Nov 2013
By 
K. W. Herdman (Whitley Bay UK) - See all my reviews
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Very gentle reading - not a gripping story, more a quiet philosophical discussion. Good Edinburgh ambience. Best read in bed at night.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A pleasurable relaxing read with philosophy we can all understand., 12 July 2014
By 
Mr. B. Hewlett (East Anglia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds: 9 (Isabel Dalhousie Novels) (Paperback)
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars warm and appealing, 20 Jun 2014
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This review is from: The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds: 9 (Isabel Dalhousie Novels) (Paperback)
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. It is about the love we have towards our children. It is also about forgiveness. Isabel Dalhousie does not only solve a crime.
She learns more about the pitfall of human nature and the complexity of human relationships.
The clouds described as "Schäfchenwolken" are up in the sky and symbolic for the ever changing scenery as the wind will blow over.
Play with words and subtlety cause the reader to ponder about the real values in life.
This book is about ethic and moral values. Should we push our children to their limits or give them a decent childhood?

Isabel solves these problems with grandeur and seemingly with ease.

This book can be highly recommended.
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The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds: 9 (Isabel Dalhousie Novels)
The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds: 9 (Isabel Dalhousie Novels) by Alexander McCall Smith (Paperback - 1 Aug 2013)
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