SECOND OPINION: A Distant View of Everything by Alexander McCall Smith

Review published on May 18, 2017.

I expect most readers are familiar with the name Alexander McCall Smith even if they haven’t read any of his books. He is a prolific writer, translated into 46 languages. His most famous series is the No1 Ladies Detective Agency books, which have been televised and read on radio. This book is part of his Isabel Dalhousie series, set in Edinburgh, a city he knows well. Isabel is a philosopher who owns and edits The Review of Applied Ethics. She has an insatiable curiosity for life, people and philosophical/moral conundrums. This leads her to investigate small mysteries but NOT big crimes. These are not crime or detective books. The novels are gently rambling, full of her musings and her enjoyment of life.

This is the eleventh novel and Isabel, married to good looking musician Jamie, has just given birth to their second son Magnus, an event not particularly welcomed by four-year-old Charlie. Despite being busy with two small children and her editing duties, Isabel agrees to help out her old friend Bea, who is worried she might have made a big mistake in her hobby of matchmaking friends. During her ‘investigations’, Isabel muses about confidentiality, the ethics of fridge magnets, the need to be kind and many other topics.

These books are a very gentle undemanding reads, but they should not be dismissed as light or frivolous. Isabel does raise some serious ethical and moral questions. I really like them and prefer them to the No 1 Ladies series (though I’ve read all of those too!). I like the setting – Alexander McCall Smith knows Edinburgh well and it is as much a part of the books as the characters. Perhaps Isabel is a bit too nice occasionally, but what’s wrong with niceness? I think she would be a good friend and interesting company.

Maddy Broome 4/3

A Distant View of Everything by Alexander McCall Smith
Little, Brown 9781408709399 hbk Mar 2017

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