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by Alexander McCall Smith

Pub Date: Dec. 6th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-307-37918-4
Publisher: Pantheon

Edinburgh philosopher Isabel Dalhousie’s cases often register low on the crime meter, but this one—the search for a new acquaintance’s father—is 100 percent felony-free.

It is not, however, free of Isabel’s trademark ethical dilemmas. Should she warn her niece Cat that Sinclair, the Adonis who’s filling in at her deli, is obviously unsuitable as a romantic partner? Should she invest in West of Scotland Turbines on the advice of her housekeeper’s medium? What should she do when Professor Robert Lettuce, who persists on the editorial board of the Review of Applied Ethics, accepts on his own initiative an essay written by his nephew Max? And where did Charlie, the 2-year-old son of Isabel and her fiancé, bassoonist Jamie, pick up the nasty word he was heard using in his playgroup? All these questions, however, take a back seat to Australian philosopher Jane Cooper’s request that Isabel help her find the man who impregnated her mother, Clara Scott, while she was still at university. Clara, long dead in a car crash, can be no help, and Isabel’s far from certain that the man who took such pains to avoid leaving a paper trail so long ago will want to be part of Jane’s life now. Isabel agrees to investigate anyway because it’s the right thing to do, and then has to deal with the quest’s unexpected complications using exactly the same moral lodestar.

The woolliest of Isabel’s eight adventures (The Charming Quirks of Others, 2010, etc.) at times seems little more than a catalogue of its heroine’s always principled errors and misjudgments. But it shows again, and handsomely, the most lovable feature of Edinburgh: “Everything is…connected somehow.”