“The Sunday Philosophy Club” series by Alexander McCall Smith

It’s been two weeks since I posted about reading a book! What’s going on? There are books all over the house…

I went on an unusual (for me) binge of reading a single author, namely Alexander McCall Smith. I limited myself to the Sunday Philosophy Club series, aka the “Isabel Dalhousie” series. These books have charm! I enjoy them for several reasons.

Isabel Dalhousie is a delightful heroine – wealthy, scholarly, and kind. Her character flaw is a tendency to get involved in other people’s business. I’ve read six books in the eight book series. At this point, she feels like a distant relative, the kind that can be counted on to send a card every Christmas.

The library categorizes these books as mysteries, but Isabel is (usually) not out solving crimes. She deals in ethical dilemmas. What is one person’s obligation to another? How should neighbors and families live together? Fittingly, she is editor of a Journal of Applied Ethics.

The books are linked by the “super” plot of Isabel’s love life. Her sweetheart is a handsome young musician, fourteen years her junior. Initially, he dates Isabel’s niece, a young and restless woman who seems to have a new boyfriend every month. This family drama is in counterpoint to much of Isabel’s highly rational and organized life.

McCall Smith uses these books to offer his opinions about art, literature and culture in Scotland. I don’t, by any means, catch all his literary references, but I have fun trying. Maybe I’ll check out the poetry of W H Auden, whom Isabel quotes frequently. In one book, he takes a swipe at “the trolley problem”, an annoying preoccupation of certain academic philosophers.

Another point in favor of these books is that the series takes place in Edinburgh, Scotland. I was fortunate enough to visit there almost 20 years ago. So much about the city appealed to me!

I’m saving the last two books in the series for my next train trip or serious head cold. Why take a chance on the unknown when I know exactly where to find a book that is both comfortable and intelligent?

McCall Smith has written dozens of books – several series of novels, children’s books and law textbooks. I’d like to look at some of his earliest work and the novels that aren’t in his series. Who knows what I’ll find?! I hope McCall Smith keeps on writing. I will certainly keep reading!


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