Review published on May 7, 2017.
Fans of Alexander McCall Smith’s Isabel Dalhousie novels will be greeting with delight another story about the philanthropic editor of The Review of Applied Ethics and her life in Edinburgh, now with two young sons. They won’t be disappointed as this is the usual mix of ingredients, with all the familiar quirky characters and Isabel being unable to avoid being drawn into other people’s problems. As you might expect there is also a misunderstanding with her young husband intertwined with her musings about moral and philosophical concerns.
There is probably less plot than usual here. An old school friend who loves matchmaking has asked for Isabel’s help as she feels she has made a mistake by introducing a woman friend to a doctor who she has since heard has a bad reputation with women. Isabel investigates and finds all is not as straightforward as at first appeared. The storyline though is almost incidental. The delight of these novels is the way Isabel’s thoughts get sidetracked into all kinds of ethical and philosophical issues. All the characters are beautifully drawn, nobody is all bad, but all have foibles and weaknesses. The pleasure is in the predictability and gentleness of the story, but also in the excellence of the writing.
Not a book for those who want exciting or violent crime thrillers. It would, though, be a good choice for reading groups as there is so much to discuss.
Berwyn Peet 5/4
A Distant View of Everything by Alexander McCall Smith
Little, Brown 9781408709399 hbk Mar 2017