In this latest installment of Alexander McCall Smith's endearing Isabel Dalhousie series, the Edinburgh philosopher and amateur sleuth answers an unexpected appeal from a wealthy Scottish collector who has been robbed of a valuable painting.
One afternoon over coffee at Cat's delicatessen, a friend of Isabel's shares a call for help from Duncan Munrowe. Crafty thieves have stolen a prized painting from his collection, a work by the celebrated French artist Nicolas Poussin that was earmarked for donation to the Scottish National Gallery. Munrowe has been approached by the thieves and hopes that Isabel will assist him in recovering the painting. Never one to refuse an appeal, she agrees, and discovers that the thieves may be closer to the owner than he ever would have expected.
Against the backdrop of this intriguing case, Isabel copes with life's issues, large and small. She and Jamie have begun to suspect that their three-year-old son, Charlie, might be a budding mathematical genius. What should be done about it? Then there is the question of whether Isabel should help a young couple who want to move in together - against the wishes of the girl's parents. The boyfriend is hoping Isabel might intercede.
As she wrestles with these problems, Isabel finds herself tested as a parent, a philosopher and a friend. But, as always, she manages to use the right combination of good sense, quick wits and a kind heart to come to the right solution, proving once again why Isabel Dalhousie has become one of Alexander McCall Smith's most beloved characters.
"Starred Review. The art theft itself, which expands into a consideration of famous art heists and forgeries, gives readers fascinating glimpses into a mostly hidden crime industry. McCall Smith spikes his heroine's seemingly cloistered world with enough close encounters with tragedy - a neighbor stabbed to death by someone he brought home, for example - to make both Isabel and the reader aware ofthe fragility of good fortune. Utterly satisfying for its art-theft puzzle, characterization, and Edinburgh setting." - Booklist
"With his usual deft hand, Smith conjures characters with a few lines - housekeeper Grace with her short fuse is particularly alive - and he has a knack for combining light comedy and serious thought. The plot (not untypically for the series or the author) is as gossamer thin as even the thinnest clouds, though it's a pleasure to watch it scudding past." - Publishers Weekly
"As you'd hope there is still the gentle humour and the general sweet nature to the story, and really my only quibble was, as I mentioned, the conclusion to the theft of the painting. If you're a fan like me then I know you're going to go out and read this anyway, and if you're wavering then do go ahead, safe in the knowledge that it's another wonderful comfort read!" - thebookbag.co.uk
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Rated of 5
Cloggie Downunder always a pleasure The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds is the ninth novel in the Isabel Dalhousie series by Alexander McCall Smith. Isabel is asked to help in the recovery of a very valuable painting (a Poussin) stolen from the collection of old-fashioned philanthropist, Duncan Munrowe. Jamie, Isabel’s husband of one year, and father of their son, Charlie, knows better than to advise against her involvement: he pleads with her to be careful. As a result of her involvement, she encounters a distraught country gentleman, an unpleasant lawyer, a pair of aggressive thugs, a reserved daughter and a disapproving son. Isabel manages to engineer a surprising resolution to the whole affair. Three and three quarter year old Charlie shows an aptitude for mathematics; Isabel gives Eddie some sorely-needed support; and Grace resigns (again!). Along the way, Isabel ponders or discusses: the nature of genius; child prodigies and pushy parents; our responsibility to future generations; the art of judging social cues; insincere compliments and heart-sink friends; dress codes and personal hygiene obligations; arguments about nothing; projectile vomiting; answering the telephone; the criminality of illegal parking; the morals of unearned money; the expiry date of sympathy; when does a reward become a ransom; loyalty to government, country and family; the ownership of leftovers; email expectations; and, of course, clouds. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments (the reincarnation of Professor Lettuce being one of those) and Isabel creates some marvelous expressions like trial by cocktail, and romantic sabbatical. There is plenty of gentle philosophy and quite a lot of wisdom. My favourite quotes: “Children understood that adults could become angry – curiously so, and for no apparent reason, just as the weather could change and a smiling day might suddenly frown.” and “’Gaydar can be misleading, you know,’ said Jamie. ‘It needs to be calibrated’” and “You can only blame people for that which they have chosen to do”. Thought-provoking and funny, always a pleasure to read.
Alexander McCall Smith began the now highly successful 'No 1 Ladies Detective
Agency' series in 1996, after being inspired by the sight of a 'traditionally
built' Botswanan lady chasing down a chicken for a meal. The first book in
the series - 'The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency' was published in the UK
in 1998 but didn't arrive in the USA until 2001.
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