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The Sunday Philosophy Club (Isobel Dalhousie…

The Sunday Philosophy Club (Isobel Dalhousie Novels) (original 2004; edition 2005)

by Alexander McCall Smith

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3,4211162,417 (3.27)147
Title:The Sunday Philosophy Club (Isobel Dalhousie Novels)
Authors:Alexander McCall Smith
Info:Abacus (2005), Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Read but unowned

Work details

The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith (2004)

  1. 20
    Death of a Snob by M. C. Beaton (carlym)
    carlym: Both are cozy mysteries set in Scotland.
  2. 10
    One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson (2810michael)

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» See also 147 mentions

English (108)  Italian (3)  Portuguese (1)  Finnish (1)  Spanish (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (115)
Showing 1-5 of 108 (next | show all)
“The world, it seemed, was based on lies and half-truths of one sort or another, and one of the tasks of morality was to help us negotiate our way around these. Yes, there so many lies: and yet the sheer power of truth was in no sense dimmed. Had Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn not said, in his Nobel address, “One word of truth will conquer the whole world.” Was this wishful thinking on the part of one who had lived in an entanglement of Orwellian state-sponsored lies, or was it a justifiable faith in the ability of truth to shine through the darkness?” p 164

This is the first of the Isabel Dalhousie mysteries set in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Isabel is a moderately wealthy lady, with a niece, various friends and a PhD in philosophy. She uses all in her quest to puzzle out a mysterious death after she sees a young man fall to his death from the top balcony of a concert hall. She believes she sees him catch her eye as he falls past, and decides it may well have been a murder.

I enjoyed the bits of philosophy and music in the novel. I was frankly surprised that Isabel didn't get herself in real trouble as she awkwardly sleuthed her way through some financial wrongdoing. In addition, I thought the mystery itself a let down.

I definitely didn't find this series as charming as the Ladies' Detective Agency. Not bad, not riveting, a quick read. ( )
  streamsong | Mar 27, 2019 |
I read this a long time ago, after I read the first few Ladies Detective Agency books. It was hard to get into, partly, I think, because the voice is so different. I liked it well enough to read the next one in the series. ( )
  nittnut | Sep 5, 2018 |
A quick read, The Sunday Philosophy Club centres on Isabel Dalhousie, a middle-aged, independently Scottish philosopher who is the accidental witness to a death which she believes was actually a murder. This is very much in the cosy mystery genre, perhaps even more so trending into the light comedy of manners, though McCall Smith isn't quite good enough a writer to really do justice to the kind of character he's created here. Isabel is a busybody and a bit of a sanctimonious prig, and for someone who has (I presume) a PhD in philosophy her musings on the topic are more than a bit trite. A little more acid in the pen McCall Smith could have made her truly fascinating rather than a bit of an irritating busybody.

For me, though, the oddest failing of the book was how anachronistic it all seemed. This was published in 2004, and the mention of the Internet and of Isabel having been at university in the late 1970s seem to indicate that it's set in the early 2000s. Yet take out those references, and I would have been far more inclined to believe it set in the 1950s and for Isabel to be Miss Marple's age. I tried and failed to picture her in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt—she seems the kind of character who was born wearing tweeds and a pair of sensible brogues. At one point I half expected her to clasp her hands in amazement at the thought of twenty-somethings meeting without chaperones. O tempora, o mores.

(Also, it's not my field, but I'm pretty sure that's not how editing a philosophy journal works.) ( )
  siriaeve | Mar 12, 2018 |
I had to zip through this book faster than I normally would have because of the looming library due date. Having said that, it wasn't a particularly difficult or complex plot, so quick reading worked out okay.

Having read and liked another book series by McCall Smith, I was hoping I would enjoy this mystery series as well. It did have some good points, including the Edinburgh setting and some of the philosophical musings by the main character. However, there really isn't much action that goes on in this book, as the majority of the story goes on in Isabel Dalhousie's head. Lots of self-talk and not a whole lot of anything else goes on. Plus, there are hints about a romantic side story that I didn't really care for, which evidently becomes a more prominent part of latter books in the series.

This was worthwhile to read once but I am still on the fence about reading more of these books. That is disappointing because I was really hoping to find a new series to get interested in.

Favorite Quotes:

These sociopaths,' he said. 'What do they feel like? Inside?'
Isabel smiled. 'Unmoved,' she said. 'They feel unmoved. Look at a cat when it does something wrong. It looks quite unmoved. Cats are sociopaths, you see. It's their natural state.

People who suffered from akrasia (which philosophers knew all about and enjoyed debating at great length) could still profess that it was better to do that which they themselves could not do. You can say that it is bad to overindulge in chocolate, or wine, or any of the other things in which people like to overindulge, and still overindulge yourself. The important thing, surely, is not to conceal your own overindulgence.

Great art, she felt, had a calming effect on the viewer; it made one stop in awe, which is exactly what Damien Hirst and Andy Warhol did not do. You did not stop in awe. They stopped you in your tracks, perhaps, but that was not the same thing; awe was something quite different. ( )
  This-n-That | Nov 17, 2017 |
Almost didn't finish this one. This one was a struggle for me to keep reading. By enduring each page turn until the end, the overall picture of the novel moves it from 1 to 2 stars but that action seems like a gift in honor of my own stamina. I will not read any more novels in this series. ( )
  Corduroy7 | Nov 16, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 108 (next | show all)
Her penchant for conducting moral arguments with herself is well-developed, but it can be less than riveting for the reader. Why does Isabel find herself drawn into the affairs of others? Is it because there is some moral imperative leading her to do so? Is it because man has an obligation to his fellow man? (Or is it because ladies who like to investigate crimes can be ladies who sell many, many books?)

...this book is a clear demonstration of Mr. McCall Smith's own philosophy: that there is wisdom in inviting readers into a world of kindness, gentility and creature comforts. Offer the literary equivalent of herbal tea and a cozy fire. They'll come back for more.

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Rosso, FrançoisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Isabel Dalhousie saw the young man fall from the edge of the upper circle, from the gods.
Pickled onions had nothing to do with moral imagination, but were important in their own quiet, vinegary way, supposed Isabel.
When the beautiful died, it was the same as when the less well blessed died; that was obvious. But why did it seem more tragic that Rupert Brooke, or Byron for that matter, should die, than other young men? Perhaps it was because we love the beautiful more, or because Death's momentary victory is all the greater. Nobody, he says, smiling, is too beautiful not to be taken by me.
She wondered how many of these people were solitary by choice, and how many were alone because nobody had ever come into their lives and relieved them of their loneliness.
The answer, she had concluded, was that this had nothing to do with happiness, which came upon you like the weather, determined by your personality.
"I can't imagine what I would do in a secret life, if I had one to lead. What is there to do that people really disapprove of these days? Nobody seems to blink an eyelid over affairs. And convicted murderers write books."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0349118698, Paperback)

Amateur sleuth Isabel Dalhousie is a philosopher who also uses her training to solve unusual mysteries. Isabel is Editor of the Review of Applied Ethics - which addresses such questions as 'Truth telling in sexual relationships' - and she also hosts The Sunday Philosophy Club at her house in Edinburgh. Behind the city's Georgian facades its moral compasses are spinning with greed, dishonesty and murderous intent. Instinct tells Isabel that the young man who tumbled to his death in front of her eyes at a concert in the Usher Hall didn't fall. He was pushed. With Isabel Dalhousie Alexander McCall Smith introduces a new and pneumatic female sleuth to tackle murder, mayhem - and the mysteries of life. As her hero WH Auden maintained, classic detective fiction stems from a desire for an uncorrupted Eden which the detective, as an agent of God, can return to us. But then Isabel, being a philosopher, has a thing or two to say about God as well.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:17 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Behind Edinburgh's regimented Geogian facades, its moral compasses are spinning with greed, dishonesty, lust and murderous intent. Isabel Dalhousie knows this. Isabel, in fact, rather relishes it. An accomplished philosopher and editor of the "Review of applied ethics", she knows all about the difference between good and bad. Which is probably why, by instinct, she is an amateur sleuth. And instinct tells her the man who tumbled to his death in front of her eyes after a concert in the Usher Hall didn't fall. He was pushed.

» see all 13 descriptions

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