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VINE VOICEon 7 August 2007
The first time EVER I have written a review before finishing a book...

I absolutely love this series. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency is superb but Elizabeth Dalhousie is beyond superb. I find it incredibly difficult to explain what it is about this series I like so much. I have lent The Sunday Philosphy Club to a couple of friends but they have been singularly unimpressed. 'OK' was about the level of their total enthusiasm.

Well... nothing much really happens. I am not going to attempt to write a synopsis of the plot here (why do reviewers do that when I just want to know what they thought?).The plot isn't exactly what you would descibe as 'gritty' but this book was certainly page turning for me. How Alexander McCall Smith descibes another persons life and thought in such minute detail and makes it so fascinating is a mystery to me. It almost feels like voyeurism.

If you are an intelligent, thoughtful person who likes to give careful consideration to the routine incidents of daily life and keep many of your personal thoughts innermost, then give her a go. You may be surprised to find you are not alone.
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Once upon a time philosophers dealt with practical questions of ethics: When is it appropriate to lie? When can you take another life? When may you be silent while another makes a mistake? Alexander McCall Smith returns us to those musings, dressed up in the clothing of a divorced woman, Isabel Dalhousie, dealing with her personal life and her profession as the editor of the Review of Applied Ethics. For those who like some intellectual depth with their stories, this series will be most rewarding. For those who want big laughs and ironies that make you instantly smile, go back to The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.

This is the third book in the series. In the prior books, Isabel shows herself to be a woman who likes to take her time to examine her behavior . . . before acting . . . and usually kicks herself when she doesn't let her intellect lead her. While being concerned about her niece, Cat, Isabel mostly is disappointed that Cat has rejected the handsome and worthy Jamie for a series of less good marital candidates. But Isabel has taken solace in keeping Jamie for a friend, while Jamie pines for the uninterested Cat.

When it rains, is that a blessing . . . or bad luck? In Scotland where it usually rains, you'd better take the former attitude. That's the theme of this story: How should you handle the unexpected?

The story moves forward on a number of fronts: Isabel develops an interest in an odd couple of Americans who turn out to be friends of her cousin; Cat has a new man in her life; Isabel and Jamie seem to drift closer together than either expected; Isabel helps Cat find some new help; and Isabel sets out to buy a home for Grace, her housekeeper. Each story element turns on the nature of male-female relations and examines those relations in different ways.

While there are the usual conundrums (What if someone misunderstands your purpose and offers you a bargain? What should you do if you think someone is in bad relationship? What's the right reaction when love offers itself?), there is actually more plot development in this story than in the previous two combined. I also liked the way that this book points out the limits of trying to lead with one's mental faculties. There is, after all, a strong emotional side to all of us.

I found my interest in the series to be greatly increased by this book. I'm very much looking forward to the next installment in the series.

Bravo!
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on 9 August 2007
I adored the previous Isobel Dalhousie books, and could not wait to get my hands on this one as I was anicipating some fireworks in the on-going romances of the niece, not to mention lots of words of wisdom from the strong-minded housekeeper. I feel it turned out to be a 'nice story', easy to read but equally easy to put down, unlike the previous ones. Would prefer a little more mystery to add some excitement and a little less of the soppy romantic side, which although gentle and pleasant, did go on a bit. Aside from that, Cat could do with a good shaking, her choice of boyfriends is lousy, surely there is a good looking but honest young man of the right age somewhere in Edinburgh !
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Once upon a time philosophers dealt with practical questions of ethics: When is it appropriate to lie? When can you take another life? When may you be silent while another makes a mistake? Alexander McCall Smith returns us to those musings, dressed up in the clothing of a divorced woman, Isabel Dalhousie, dealing with her personal life and her profession as the editor of the Review of Applied Ethics. For those who like some intellectual depth with their stories, this series will be most rewarding. For those who want big laughs and ironies that make you instantly smile, go back to The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.

This is the third book in the series. In the prior books, Isabel shows herself to be a woman who likes to take her time to examine her behavior . . . before acting . . . and usually kicks herself when she doesn't let her intellect lead her. While being concerned about her niece, Cat, Isabel mostly is disappointed that Cat has rejected the handsome and worthy Jamie for a series of less good marital candidates. But Isabel has taken solace in keeping Jamie for a friend, while Jamie pines for the uninterested Cat.

When it rains, is that a blessing . . . or bad luck? In Scotland where it usually rains, you'd better take the former attitude. That's the theme of this story: How should you handle the unexpected?

The story moves forward on a number of fronts: Isabel develops an interest in an odd couple of Americans who turn out to be friends of her cousin; Cat has a new man in her life; Isabel and Jamie seem to drift closer together than either expected; Isabel helps Cat find some new help; and Isabel sets out to buy a home for Grace, her housekeeper. Each story element turns on the nature of male-female relations and examines those relations in different ways.

While there are the usual conundrums (What if someone misunderstands your purpose and offers you a bargain? What should you do if you think someone is in bad relationship? What's the right reaction when love offers itself?), there is actually more plot development in this story than in the previous two combined. I also liked the way that this book points out the limits of trying to lead with one's mental faculties. There is, after all, a strong emotional side to all of us.

I found my interest in the series to be greatly increased by this book. I'm very much looking forward to the next installment in the series.

Bravo!
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on 4 March 2011
I found this book on sale and did not know whether to buy it and read or not since it is the 3rd in a series and it always feel strange to jump in to a series not starting with the first book. But I decided to go for it since I have wondered what the series is like. For years I have shied away from it because it says that it has to do with philosophy and I hated that subject in school.
Well, it did not take many pages before I was hooked. This is not Plato and Aristotle philosophy but a woman like myself, thinking a lot about moral and ethic questions. I recognized so much of myself in Isabel Dalhousie that I fell in love with the book and want to read more of the series.
The questions dealt with in this novel are many. Ought one tell a rich man that his fiancée is only marrying him for his money? Ought one tell one's niece that has a propensity to choose the wrong sort of men, only after their looks, that her new boyfriend has not cut the apron strings to his mother? Is it all right to buy a flat for one's hired help because she insists on not taking a loan herself and thereby paying high rent? Is it all right to be in love with one's niece's ex-boyfriend that is 14 years younger than oneself? And when he shows feelings for you, is it all right to have a relationship with him even-though it has no future? And finally, does one take advantage of an offer to buy a flat much cheaper, because the owner thinks it is going to be your love nest?
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 July 2008
I started with book 4 of the series and then read 1, 2 and this one (no 3). I'm hooked and will have to order number 5! These books are perfect for bed-time reading. You enter the gentle world of genteel Edinburgh following life's up and downs of a nice forty-something woman (Isabel Dalhousie). She has inherited wealth and has a part-time job as an editor of a philosophy journal so has time to ponder the world around her and be a bit of an amateur detective. It's all very engaging and charming and doesn't keep you awake at night. I think these books will have a particular appeal to those of us who are familiar with the parts of Edinburgh and Scottish Borders in which these books are set.
It would be best to read the books in chronological order as there is an evolving story in Isabel's personal life that unfolds over the series.
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on 8 August 2007
Isabel returns in this, the third, in the Sunday Philosophy Club series of novels. The characters continue to grow on me, and so despite the minimalist central plot, I enjoyed this book more than the previous two.

Alexander McCall Smith doesn't need a thrill a second or cleverly twisting plot to offer us an enjoyable or enlightening read. His gentle writing provides us with a thought provoking observation on the moral dilemmas that some of us may encounter on our own journey through life, and the fact that the characters are perhaps a little too convenient doesn't matter. After all this is fiction.

If you enjoy McCall's Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency, you are very likely to enjoy the company of Isabel Dalhousie.
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on 1 February 2009
I LOVE McCall Smith's No 1 Ladies's Detective Agency series and so looked forward to this series as well. Well, I have enjoyed it, but, as they say, it was nothing much to write home about. The reason was that, though the stories were interesting and the characters as well, Isabel always seemed a bit TOO aloof. Not so in this book. Though, it is true that there was no "real" mystery and so, for some, not much of a story, the evolution of the characters-all of the characters-was most intriguing and most satisfying, though, yes, I do agree with one reviewer who said that Cat could do with a shake.

Do not expect car chases and code names in this book. McCall Smith is an extremely...introspective writer. This, to me is quite restorative and pleasant. Some might find it tedious, trying, and/or downright dull. To each his own
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Once upon a time philosophers dealt with practical questions of ethics: When is it appropriate to lie? When can you take another life? When may you be silent while another makes a mistake? Alexander McCall Smith returns us to those musings, dressed up in the clothing of a divorced woman, Isabel Dalhousie, dealing with her personal life and her profession as the editor of the Review of Applied Ethics. For those who like some intellectual depth with their stories, this series will be most rewarding. For those who want big laughs and ironies that make you instantly smile, go back to The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.

This is the third book in the series. In the prior books, Isabel shows herself to be a woman who likes to take her time to examine her behavior . . . before acting . . . and usually kicks herself when she doesn't let her intellect lead her. While being concerned about her niece, Cat, Isabel mostly is disappointed that Cat has rejected the handsome and worthy Jamie for a series of less good marital candidates. But Isabel has taken solace in keeping Jamie for a friend, while Jamie pines for the uninterested Cat.

When it rains, is that a blessing . . . or bad luck? In Scotland where it usually rains, you'd better take the former attitude. That's the theme of this story: How should you handle the unexpected?

The story moves forward on a number of fronts: Isabel develops an interest in an odd couple of Americans who turn out to be friends of her cousin; Cat has a new man in her life; Isabel and Jamie seem to drift closer together than either expected; Isabel helps Cat find some new help; and Isabel sets out to buy a home for Grace, her housekeeper. Each story element turns on the nature of male-female relations and examines those relations in different ways.

While there are the usual conundrums (What if someone misunderstands your purpose and offers you a bargain? What should you do if you think someone is in bad relationship? What's the right reaction when love offers itself?), there is actually more plot development in this story than in the previous two combined. I also liked the way that this book points out the limits of trying to lead with one's mental faculties. There is, after all, a strong emotional side to all of us.

I found my interest in the series to be greatly increased by this book. I'm very much looking forward to the next installment in the series.

Bravo!
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VINE VOICEon 14 November 2011
In Alexander McCall Smith's third Isabel Dalhousie book human nature and love are gently reflected on. Our eponymous heroine is the editor of a journal of ethics and lives alone, visited by her spiritualist housekeeper Grace, close to her neice Cat and her ex boyfriend Jamie. As Isabel entertains house guests, her American cousin and husband, she comes into contact with an American couple, millionaire Tom and his young fiancee Angie. Is she simply a gold digger? And what of her own feelings for a younger man, feelings that help her heal from the loss of her beloved but unfaithful husband years before.
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