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The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander…

The Sunday Philosophy Club (original 2004; edition 2005)

by Alexander McCall Smith

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2,926961,966 (3.27)128
Title:The Sunday Philosophy Club
Authors:Alexander McCall Smith
Info:Vintage Canada (2005), Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Your library

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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. 00
    One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson (2810michael)

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Showing 1-5 of 92 (next | show all)
Definitely on the cozy side of the mystery spectrum. This is the first of the Scottish-based Isabel Dalhousie series by the writer who is probably best known for the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. Dalhousie is an editor and part-time philosopher (the so-called club of the title never actually seems to have meetings) who witnesses what at first seems like a tragic accident but which soon becomes a suspicious death mostly only to her and to everyone else's puzzlement. Dalhousie also works on a more domestic mystery related to her niece's engagement while also seemingly making some moves on her niece's ex-bf! It all ends with a few good twists. There was also some entertaining trivia about life in Edinburgh and music & composers.

Trivia note: It is not mentioned in this book, and doesn't come up until Book No. 3 apparently, but Jamie (the bf) and Isabel fall into a category that I collect called #FictionalCharactersThatLoveArvoPärt, the contemporary Estonian composer.
"Arvo Pärt suits Isabel too. Pärt is an Estonian composer who writes exquisite, almost ethereal music. Some may describe it as minimalist (I have read that Pärt himself does not like that term). Anyway, it is very pure.” - Alexander McCall Smith from https://www.facebook.com/notes/alexander-mccall-smith/music-and-words/10150255738965530 ( )
  alanteder | Aug 24, 2015 |
An enjoyable read.
Good character creation. Story told from thoughts and actions of the main character Isabel Dalhousie.
I was in Edinburgh last year so I looked up bbuildings and streets mentioned on a map. ( )
  GeoffSC | May 31, 2015 |
To read my full review, please visit my blog at http://bodyonthefloor.blogspot.com/2015/01/the-sunday-philosophy-club-isabel.htm...

The Sunday Philosophy Club was an absolutely delightful read. Its protagonist, Isabel Dalhousie, is a wealthy Scottish woman who edits an academic philosophy review. Dalhousie is independent and enjoys her life unapologetically, which is a refreshing change from most female protagonists, with the possible exception of Maisie Dobbs. Isabel enjoys doing her morning crossword puzzles, her relationship with her niece and mulling over the philosophical and ethical quandaries presented by everyday life. And, naturally, sticking her nose where it doesn't belong, which is how she becomes embroiled in a mystery.

In this case, Isabel watches as a young man who attended a concert she was at falls to his death from the gods of the auditorium. As the man falls (is pushed?) Isabel ever so briefly catches a glimpse of his face and is haunted by the experience. She almost successfully pushes it from her mind, but ultimately decides, through pretty sound philosophical reasoning, she has a moral obligation to discover what really happened.

In addition to creating a refreshingly different protagonist, McCall's writing is clean and pleasant. His narrative style evokes the British cozy genre, or in this case, a Scottish cozy. The dialogue is very well done and flows naturally, adding to the depth of the characters instead of simply moving the plot along.

The mystery itself was intriguing, though not gripping. It acts more as a fulcrum for the characters and setting, but personally I was fine with that. Since it’s a character driven book in the best of ways, there isn’t a ton of action in this book but a lot of introspection. The book was, I admit with some chagrin, also far smarter than I ever would of thought, sprinkled with references from avante garde composers to even modern philosophers.

Finally, there is a very high-brow, sharp wit peppered throughout the book that caused me to give an unexpected guffaw on more than one occasion while reading. I enjoyed learning about Scottland and the idea of approaching life from a primarily philosophical perspective. Even the ending was philosophical, a feat for which I give a mental hat tip to McCall Smith.

The snob in me considers this a “guilty pleasure” read, but the I-just-love-to-read part of me (you know, the other 99.8 percent) can’t wait to get the next installment.

So if you’re looking for a what-happens-next read, this isn’t for you. But if you like people and are fascinated by the quietly eccentric among them, hurry to the bookstore or library now. You’re going to want to meet Isabel. ( )
  Shutzie27 | Jan 31, 2015 |
This book is really a rich Scottish woman's philosophical thoughts with a not-so-strong mystery in between. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy philosophy, & I enjoyed those philosophical rants, but I don't know if they belonged in the book because the outcome, to me, was particularly immoral. What is the point of going on & on about ethics & such without applying it? I really did not like the end. Neither did I like the whole insider-trading lead. It was horribly painful to sit through. I did, however, like some of the characters, like Grace and Jamie. Cat is okay, but if I wanted to read about that kinda stuff I would go to the Young Adult section. I wish Toby's character was more developed, I think he would have been more like-able, when the author just presents him as neutral, really. The avalanche trains of thought were funny. I wish the lead character was someone I could like, but I didn't like her much in this one. I will give her a second chance ... eventually. Something tells me I would rather just the author write a book on philosophy, & another on Scottish history & culture, though. ( )
  mvbdlr | Aug 2, 2014 |
I enjoyed this book although not quite as much as the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency or 44 Scotland Street series. I kept waiting for Isabel to ask if someone else went to the concert with Mark-to me the most obvious question. Also, she never did get to have a meeting of the titled club. I will read the next book because I already have it,, but we'll see after that. ( )
  eliorajoy | Jun 1, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 92 (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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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.
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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)

Amateur sleuth Isabel Dalhousie is a philosopher who also uses her training to solve unusual mysteries. 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.

(summary from another edition)

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