THE SUNDAY PHILOSOPHY CLUB (Isabel Dalhousie #1) by Alexander McCall Smith
Published; 1st January 2004, Abacus
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 first instalment, Isabel is attending a concert in the Usher Hall when she witnesses a man fall from the upper balcony. Isabel can’t help wondering whether it was the result of mischance or mischief. Against the best advice of her no-nonsense housekeeper Grace, her bassoon playing friend Jamie, and even her romantically challenged niece Cat, she is morally bound to solve this case. Complete with wonderful Edinburgh atmosphere and characters straight out of a Robert Burns poem, The Sunday Philosophy Club is a delightful treat from one of our most beloved authors.
When reading the synopsis I was expecting this book to be a crime story and it sort of was but not quite the story I was expecting. I’m not sure I would have quite picked this book to read myself, but as I have the second in the series on my shelf which I plan to read as part of my “Beat the Backlist” and cannot start a series part way through i had to give this one a try. I think this can be quite good sometimes, trying something different is very rarely a bad thing.
Isabel Dalhousie witnesses a man fall from a balcony whilst out at the opera. As she struggles to grasp what she has seen she tries to find out more information about the man and what caused the fall.
I found the fall/murder was more of a back story as we were introduced to Isabel, her niece Cat, Cat’s ex boyfriend Jamie who Isabel has befriended and taken quite a shine to as well as Isabel’s house keeper Grace. I felt like the murder story line didn’t really get going until much later into the book and was probably a little rushed, and as Isabel isn’t a private detective or really have an official investigative role it might have been a bit strange if she suddenly became one. Isabel just took upon herself to find closure for herself and to find an explanation for this huge event she witnessed.
Don’t be deceived by the title either, although The Sunday Philosophy Club is mentioned several times we never actually get to meet them or see what they are actually about. I’m hoping this might be rectified in later books.
That’s the bad part of my review and despite all of that, I did enjoy the story. It took me a little while to get into but not enough that I considered stopping reading and once I got into it I found I even quite enjoyed it. I did struggle with some of the technical jargon and some of the themes that Isabel mentioned but they weren’t a huge part of the book and I could just ignore them and it didn’t ruin anything for me. I couldn’t guess what the outcome was going to be or who the murderer would be so that added an element of surprise for me which definitely made the book more interesting for me. Alexander also writes the ending well so that all loose endings are tied up which is nice for a book that is the beginning of a series.
I think if someone wants to try something a little different to a hardcore thriller or a romance novel which revolves around boy and girl then this might be something to pick up.
You can buy THE SUNDAY PHILOSOPHY CLUB (Isabel Dalhousie #1) from the following booksellers (and obviously many more! Support your local booksellers where you can!)