Cover detail of The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith

The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith

Last year, my husband and I were lucky enough to visit the beautiful city of Edinburgh. We stayed very centrally and enjoyed exploring the local sights and just being in this vibrant city. We took boat trips to see the Firth of Forth Bridge and saw seals, enjoyed a Scottish breakfast, ate like Kings and visited some of Edinburgh's many bookshops.

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By far, our favourite was Blackwells. This was a huge bookshop, with plenty of creaking floors, reading nooks and a nice cafe inhabited by students and customers alike whilst sat in cosy surroundings, the outside a fog due to the condensation on the windows.

The best thing about this bookshop was the range, it reminded me of Ottakar's and Borders. but what do I mean by this? So when I talk about range, I am thinking of backlist books by particular authors. This is ideal when as a reader, you discover a new to you author. Imagine then visiting your local bookshop to find that they stock the majority of the books by this author enabling you to pick up one or two (or five!)

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Sadly bookshops do not resemble the Tardis from Doctor Who, space is finite. A good buyer for the store will know the authors to stock. Hand in hand with publisher reps, who will advise if the publisher is going to do a rebrand of an author's backlist, it needs experience and a bit of nouse to know what authors to keep in. Blackwells does this beautifully, and I was delighted to discover had the majority of the Alexander McCall Smith books kept in order, by series under its Scottish Authors section. I dutifully selected a couple of books and am now reviewing one of them!

The Plot

Isabel Dalhousie knows that behind Edinburgh's Georgian facades its moral compasses spin with greed, dishonesty and lust. As a philosopher, editor of the Review of Applied Ethics and founder of the Sunday Philosophy Club, her business is to map the intricacies of human behaviour. But when she sees a man tumble from the balcony at the Usher Hall, it's her instinct that tells her strongly that he didn't fall: he was pushed.
Isabel turns amateur sleuth in a bid to solve the mystery of the falling man, and what she lacks in official status she makes up for in contacts and informants, including her housekeeper Grace, her beautiful niece Cat, and Cat's ex-boyfriend Jamie, whose charms are causing Isabel to review her own ethics.

My Thoughts

I adore the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency and back in 2004, Alexander McCall Smith decided to introduce us to a new series, with a brand new set of characters, the action transplanted from Botswana to a rather more grey Edinburgh.

What is still present though is that lovely gentle feel that Alexander McCall Smith does so well. If Mma Ramotswe is a cup of enervating Redbush tea, Isabel Dalhousie is Earl Grey and crumpets swimming in butter taken in the drawing room of an Edinburgh townhouse.

The crime is interesting - a young man falls to his death at the Opera, a look of surprise on his face. Isabel who witnessed his fall wonders why the shock and on investigation believes there was someone there with the victim. She becomes drawn in, gently investigating and intelligently reading the characters surrounding the victim. Like Mma Ramotswe we are privy to her musings and sumations. As Editor of the Review Applied Ethics we take a more philosophical approach to the business of solving murder. Isabel shows us her world often humourously as she introduces a philosophical thoery often demonstrated beautifully and unwittingly by a suspect.

All in all, this is a gentle, autumnal and cosy read perfect for curling with, Grandfather clock ticking and the curtains drawn, a cup of tea close at hand.