‘The Charming Quirks of Others’, by Alexander McCall Smith

In this, the 7th instalment of the Isabel Dalhousie Series, otherwise known as the Sunday Philosophy Club, Isabel is asked by some friends to look into a tricky situation. A successor is being sought for a headmaster position, but the board has gotten a letter suggesting that one of the candidates has a serious skeleton in his closet. Isabel is asked to discreetly look into it and what she discovers is surprising!

Alexander McCall Smith is himself a medical ethicist and through the main character of this series, he explores moral and ethical issues. But he does it in such an amusing and entertaining way! The author has a way of elevating and celebrating the ordinary, and Isabel Dalhousie is an ordinary, slightly nosy, Scottish lady. Because of her innate desire to help others, she ends up in some situations that she really shouldn’t be in, and unlike Mma Ramotswe, who always gets things right, Isabel often gets things wrong. And that is why we love her.

McCall Smith is master at capturing everyday sorts of truths in his books, articulating that which we know to be true, but have never found words to describe. “She was well dressed…it was not ostentatious clothes that were really expensive, it was quiet clothes that exhausted the credit card…”.

One of the things McCall Smith does so well is celebrate the little things in life…which, of course, are really the big things. Did you know that he plays bassoon in the RTO (Really Terrible Orchestra)? There is pleasure to be found in being amateur, for the author and for his characters.

To get into the series, start with the first one, The Sunday Philosophy Club, and watch an interview about the Isabel Dalhousie Novels from the link below.  This website is also helpful for keeping all of his series straight, and knowing which book is next so that you read them in order. To see the videos, just click on Multimedia.

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