The Charming Quirks of Others

I read as much of Alexander McCall Smith as I can get my hands on. This book, The Charming Quirks of Others, is part of the Isabel Dalhousie/Sunday Philosophy Club series, and it’s lovely. The premise of all the Isabel books: Isabel is an independently wealthy philosopher and is the editor for an academic journal on philosophy. Her work of course spills over in her private life, and she finds herself examining events in her life with philosophic scrutiny. (She might overthink things a bit, occasionally. Perhaps I identify with her there?) So you read a lot about ethics and morals and the implications behind people’s behavior and interactions with each other. Also, she is nosy, and has come into the habit of taking on cases of a sort. Not as much detective cases as situations between people that need sorting out. In this case, three men are being considered for a headmaster’s position at a local school, but an anonymous letter has made clear that there is something in one of the candidates’ past that could hurt the school. Which headmaster, and what happened? That’s for Isabel to figure out. In the meantime, she thinks about love and infidelity, edits the journal, and takes care of her son, Charlie. All of which mayn’t sound very exciting, and perhaps isn’t. These are not exciting books. But they are worthwhile, in every sense of the word.

My description probably makes clear that these are ponderous books. Well-written, sympathetic, but ponderous. And that’s not everyone’s cup of tea of course. But I like them, I like thinking about the ethics McCall Smith posits, and I like reading the descriptions of Edinburgh thrown in on every page. I may like his other series better (the Corduroy Mansions series and the 44 Scotland Street series, and let’s not forget the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series), but Isabel and her overthinking personality are always a good read.



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