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Publisher's Summary

Isabel Dalhousie grapples with complex matters of the heart as she tries to juggle her responsibilities to friends, family, and the philosophical community. With two small boys to raise, a mountain or articles to edit for the Review of Applied Ethics, and the ever-increasing demands of her niece, Cat, who always seems to need a helping hand at the deli, Isabel barely has any time for herself. 

Her husband, Jamie, suggests acquiring extra help, and she reluctantly agrees. In no time at all, Isabel and Jamie have a new au pair, and Isabel hires an intelligent assistant editor to share her workload.

©2018 Alexander McCall Smith (P)2018 Recorded Books

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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Wish publishers would publish more intellectual women’s mysteries

For the most part, I have looked forward to Alexander McCall Smith’s Isabel Dalhousie installments, though I know there will be maddening segments in which she rants and pronounces self-righteous judgments like an aging Anglo-Saxon Protestant man raised in an African colony. Still, I like Edinburgh and can’t afford to travel there, and as a literature professor and editor who has to publish analyses that include philosophy, this character gives me familiarity with a pleasant level of escapism. Unfortunately, there are times when the author’s masculinity of perspective not only shines through but grates on the story, such as when Isabel used to whine on and on about how lucky she was to be providing an upper class lifestyle for the impoverished musician, Jamie, who is now the henpecked father of her two sons. Some experiences and perspectives simply don’t translate across gender and ethnicity divides in a culture as hierarchical as the British and Anglo-American. This problem arises again in The Quiet Side of Passion. Three young women come precipitately into Isabel’s life and home, where she keeps her lovable little sons and supposedly delectable husband, and all three are sexually incontinent and emotionally dishonest. Yet, the gender indistinct Isabel not only is slow to suspect or condemn the obvious foul plays all three of these women are perpetrating, involving and exposing her innocent sons, but she goes to two men for sympathetic advice or support. Seriously? Does an editor read these Dalhousie mysteries before they are published? Can we strive for just a little verisimilitude ? At some point, even the most determined fan has to speak up for characterization . I am wildly grateful that a mystery series is published with an intelligent female protagonist in a beautiful city following human interest stories with minimal or no blood and guts for readers to slog through. I wish my support of Dalhousie had inspired publishers to publish more series like this, perhaps even written by women (imagine that!), so the characterizations might be refreshing instead of incredibly annoying or even tension-inducing. I will continue to support the concept of Dalhousie because her city is charming, her philosophical musings are engaging even when Eurocentric, and she too is a highly educated woman in a badly misogynistic environment. But how I wish competing publishers would seek to capitalize on Dalhousie’s legacy!

20 of 22 people found this review helpful

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  • Jean
  • Santa Cruz, CA, United States
  • 08-17-18

Engaging

I enjoy the Isabel Dalhousie series. It is one of those book readers either love or hate. I am one that loves the series. Smith has created an interesting twisting plot. Each book in this series provides a discussion of a moral problem/dilemma. The characters are all old friends now. When each new book comes out, I feel as if I’ve dropped by Isabel’s for a cup of tea and a time to catch up.

Alexander McCall Smith is a master storyteller. He is a prolific writer and all his series seem to be quite different. I cannot wait until my next visit with Isabel. The book is nine hours. Davina Porter does a superb job narrating the book. Porter is on of my favorite narrators. Porter has an elegant voice. Porter is a multi-award-winning narrator.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Lovely listen

The combination of Mr. McCall Smith’s storytelling and Davina Porter’s narration is wonderful. It is always a treat to listen to these stories.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Thoughtful , Provocative & Sweet

Never underestimate the power of words put to paper from Alexander McCall Smith . He writes gentle yet truly beautiful books !
This book was a delicate blend of a Scottish family with a bit of mystery & fun all weaved well together .
I love all of his books !

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Isabel Shirks her Ethics

I listen to three of Alexander McCall Smith's series and love them all, including this one with Isabel Dalhousie. But in this iteration, Isabel falls short of using her own judgement to govern her actions. If I had a long-term employee but needed more help, the first thing I would do is to sit down with the employee and see which duties she might be willing to relinquish and where she thought we might need help. I would not spring an au pair on her with little discussion. Isabel handled several things in this book that don't align with her professed value of ethics and directness. She was often saying, "but, I couldn't say that," when she could perfectly well be more truthful and direct in a diplomatic way. If each of the stories is this inconsistent, I haven't notice it before but it was disturbing in this one.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Frustrated with Isabel

I love entering the world of Isabel Dalhousie with all the lovely descriptions of Edinburgh and I was eagerly awaiting this latest instalment. I like Isabel even though in previous books I was often annoyed that she didn't stand up for herself with Cat and Grace. Even when she had a legitimate reason for being angry or upset she wouldn't say anything and if she did she would immediately apologize. I guess this made sense since she had a long-term relationship with both women and didn't want to upset things. But in this book, Isabel frankly had no spine at all when dealing with three young women she just met. She simply let all three walk all over her. As the employer of two of them, she had a right and a responsibility to set out the rules of employment yet she abdicated that responsibility and did nothing more than agonize about things. I'm getting tired of her letting people like Professor Lettuce bully her all the time. I also found the storyline rather boring and I didn't care at all how it was resolved. I hope Alexander McCall Smith will give Isabel some spunk and a far more interesting story in the next instalment - she deserves it.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Wonderful

Alexander McCall Smith never disappoints. This was beautiful. Thank you. God bless you, Mr. Smith. You are a treasure.

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Lovely book, well narrated

A M Smith did it again. A very well written book, that was a pleasure to listen to.

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It's time for Isabel Dalhousie to grow

I'm a big fan of Alexander McCall Smith, including the Dalhousie series, but I'm getting really tired of Isabel being such a doormat, letting people take advantage of her and insult her, never standing up for herself or even suggesting that there is anything objectionable in their behavior towards her. If she ever stands up to people it's on behalf of someone else, not herself.

Clearly AMS wants us to agree that this "gentle" approach is best in the long run, because he has everything work itself out without her having to actually do anything to defend her own interests, but it's becoming tedious and a bit frustrating. I would like to shake her and say, "Come on, already!" I like the stories and the twists and even the sometimes lengthy philosophizing as Isabel's thoughts go off on tangents, but if she doesn't start to develop a backbone in the next book in the series, I think it will be the last one that I read.

In a similar vein, I'm also just a bit tired of Jamie being such a perfect man and husband - always supportive and understanding and positive, never a harsh word, never a serious complaint despite Isabel's constant refusal to follow any of his advice even when her actions affect both of them and even their sons. Sure, sometimes I wouldn't mind having such a perfect partner, but it's simply not realistic and not all that interesting in the world of fiction. He's basically a two-dimensional foil for Isabel's adventures.

Davina Porter's narration is, as always, wonderful, including of course the Scottish accents. I think her reading is a large part of why I'm such a big fan of these audiobooks...

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Isabel Dalhousie is back

Charlie is now attending nursery school, and Isabel and Jamie take turns delivering him and picking him up. Thus it happens that Isabel is there at the gate one day, to meet Charlie's new friend, Basil Phelps, Jr., and his mother, Patricia, a musician whom Jamie occasionally works with.

Patricia seems unusually eager to make friends.

That night, Jamie shares the unexpected information that Basil Phelps, Jr., is rumored to be the unacknowledged son of a prominent organist, Basil Phelps. Jamie has worked with each of them, and they are both well known in the Edinburgh music community.

The next few weeks are a flurry of confusing events. Professor Lettuce has an unexpected proposal for her. She's increasingly feeling the burden of being the owner, editor, and only staff of the Journal of Applied Ethics and mother of two young children, even though Jamie more than pulls his weight a householder. Grace happily shifts her efforts to child care, especially of young Magnus, but as a result, is not doing nearly as much cleaning.

Jamie encourages her to get an au pair to help out with the house, and also to consider hiring a part-time assistant for the Journal.

When she stumbles across evidence that Basil Jr. may really not be the son of Basil Sr., who is paying child support, Jamie also encourages her to not get involved. Yes, maybe Phelps the organist is being taken advantage of, but Isabel can't put the whole world right.

Of course she is not much restrained by the second piece of advice, although she does heed the first advice, about getting help.

Predictably all of this gets very, very complicated.

Isabel, Jamie, and all their friends, including Isabel's often difficult niece, Cat, owner of a deli, continue to be our old friends, while continuing to grow and develop. Most importantly, Isabel continues to seek to do the right thing by everyone within her social circle, and to give much careful thought to what that is. This remains true even if I do think that she overlooked the obvious regarding hiring an au pair: adding to the household staff is a thing that would work much better if she discussed it with Grace first, and had Grace's knowledge, input, and agreement on who was being hired to do what.

Also, of course, Grace can balance out Isabel's tendency to want to believe the best of everyone, and not ask enough questions before something happens.

It's another good addition to the series, and will be enjoyed by anyone who usually enjoys these books.

Recommended.

I bought this audiobook.