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The second of the Isabel Dalhousie mysteries is, loosely, about a man with a transplanted heart who believes that he’s having visions related to the death of his donor.

I say loosely because this is a meandering novel that is more about what people make of coincidence than it is about solving a mystery, though the mystery is solved in a way that is consistent with the main character’s rational approach to life.

Isabel Dalhousie is an independently weatlhy philosopher who edits an academic journal on applied ethics. She is a thinker and the novel is largely taken up with her thoughts on morality, history, and all the other questions that catch her fancy by chance as she wanders through her daily life. She is a decent woman, attractive enough, conscious of her age (early forties), intelligent, not immune to jealousy or unrequited love, but attempts to act well despite the power of those emotions. She is an interesting protagonist.

I found the novel pleasant. I kept expecting a turn of events that would bring danger and menace to the story, but though there were hints it was possible, that never happened. Instead the story strolled through Isabel’s life, her thoughts, her struggle with her passions, not a great struggle but a quiet one.

It was a good read for a couple of hot days when I wanted to do very little but lie around and read. There were about half a dozen lines in the book that were beautiful–enough to show that Smith could write much better if he wished, though probably not as quickly. It’s a good enough book. It isn’t exquisite, it didn’t keep me on the edge of my seat. The structure is loose. I wouldn’t rush out to get the next in the series. But it was just right for the heat and it would be good for the flu. I’m sure I’ll visit with Isabel another time. ( )
  liliannattel | Feb 6, 2014 |
From December 2005 School Library Journal:
Isabel Dalhousie, the charming and well-intentioned editor of the Review of Applied Ethics, is back in this second installment of McCall Smith’s newest mystery series. Isabel does not actively seek out mysteries, but her inability to ignore those in need has a way of drawing her into peculiar situations. Her latest adventure begins when she meets Ian, a man who has recently had a heart transplant, and has found himself beset by unrecognized memories. He is disturbed by a menacing face which keeps appearing in his memories, and he and Isabel wonder whether there is any credence to the theory of cellular memory, and whether Ian could be recalling the person who was responsible for his donor’s death.
As with his earlier series, McCall Smith draws heavily on the geography he knows best. In much the same way that The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series opens a door to the dusty roads of Botswana, this new series allows readers to experience the long, sunny days of a Scottish summer. The history and charm of Edinburgh are apparent in the detailed descriptions of the cobblestoned streets walked by Isabel as she contemplates philosophical questions and attempts to make sense of Ian’s issues as well as her own sudden romantic interest in a much younger friend and recent fiancé of her niece. The characters and plots are thoughtful and thought-provoking, and will stay with readers well beyond the final page.
( )
  KimJD | Apr 8, 2013 |
"How very Edinburgh."

I read The Sunday Philosophy Club, the first book in this series, expecting to enjoy it, having received rave reviews of Alexander McCall Smith from friends, and found it very disappointing. A friend lent me this book in an emergency (involving keys locked in the car my need of a book to read while waiting for rescue) and I was surprised to find myself enjoying it thoroughly. Perhaps the change in my reaction was partly because I visited Edinburgh, albeit briefly, in the period between reading these books, but I think there's more to it than that.

The plot is certainly meandering, but that's not a negative in my eyes. If you want and/or need an "A leads to B leads to C and therefore D" plot structure, you will likely find this book frustrating.

Character-wise, I felt much more sympathetic toward Isabel than I did in the first book, where her black and white view of ethics and the world in general pissed me off - she shows a little more humanity here, although she does try very hard to suppress it! ( )
  Vivl | Apr 5, 2013 |
I listened to this, and the woman who read it has an accent. I loved listening to it. It was also pretty interesting, could a heart transplant come with memories from the actual heart... and then some fluff too. Although you shouldn't take my word for it really, I would probably have liked anything if this woman read it to me. ( )
  E.J | Apr 3, 2013 |
Isabel helps with Cat's deli so she can go off to a wedding in Italy. Meanwhile, she meets a man who has had a recent heart transplant and has a troubling recurring vision. She does her usual philosophical pondering and considers running off with a handsome Italian man. ( )
  heaward | Oct 19, 2012 |
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For Angus and Fiona Foster
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The man in the brown Harris tweed overcoat ... made his way slowly along the street that led down the spine of Edinburgh
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Book group Feb 2007, Dissappointing,
As a fan of the No1 Ladies Detective Agency I was looking forward to similar in Edinburgh. This book lacks all credibility, where I recognised the atmosphere of Gaberone the Edinburgh described bears no resemblance to reality. Isabel has got to be the most unbelievable character with whom I failed have a shred of empathy. While the quasi philosophical musings were mildly engaging the plot had a number of potentially interesting threads which failed to develop.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375422994, Hardcover)


Nothing captures the charm of Edinburgh like the bestselling Isabel Dalhousie series of novels featuring the insatiably curious philosopher and woman detective.  Whether investigating a case or a problem of philosophy, the indefatigable Isabel Dalhousie, one of fiction’s most richly developed amateur detectives, is always ready to pursue the answers to all of life’s questions, large and small.

In this delightful second installment in Alexander McCall Smith’s best-selling new detective series, the irrepressibly curious Isabel Dalhousie, editor of the Review of Applied Ethics, gets caught up in an affair of the heart—this one a transplant.

When Isabel’s niece, Cat, asks Isabel to run her delicatessen while she attends a wedding in Italy, Isabel meets a man with a most interesting problem. He recently had a heart transplant and is suddenly plagued with memories of events that never happened to him. The situation appeals to Isabel as a philosophical question: Is the heart truly the seat of the soul? And it piques her insatiable curiosity: Could the memories be connected with the donor’s demise? Of course, Grace—Isabel’s no-nonsense housekeeper—and Isabel’s friend Jamie think it is none of Isabel’s business. Meanwhile, Cat brings home an Italian lothario, who, in accordance with all that Isabel knows about Italian lotharios, shouldn’t be trusted . . . but, goodness, he is charming.

That makes two mysteries of the heart to be solved—just the thing for Isabel Dalhousie.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:22:52 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

The delightful second installment in McCall Smith's already hugely popular new detective series, "The Sunday Philosophy Club," stars the irrepressibly curious Isabel Dalhousie--editor of the "Journal of Applied Ethics"--and her no-nonsense housekeeper, Grace.… (more)

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