Even more than her first four adventures, Isabel Dalhousie’s fifth is a record of complications that constantly challenge her ethical faculties while charmingly failing to disturb her tranquility.
What happens when Professor Christopher Dove, who schemed unsuccessfully in The Careful Use of Compliments (2007) to replace Isabel as editor of the Review of Applied Ethics, sends her an article on the venerable Trolley Problem? After due thought, Isabel sends it out to two readers, just as she would a contribution by anyone else. What happens when her niece Cat takes a holiday in Sri Lanka with her current lover? Isabel manages Cat’s delicatessen in her absence, of course. When Cat’s assistant Eddie, a damaged boy, asks Isabel for money, she agrees to give it, come what may in the way of second thoughts. And when she suspects that American composer Nick Smart is interested in more than musical collaboration with Jamie, Cat’s ex-lover and the father of Isabel’s son Charlie, she cycles through one emotional reaction after another before the unsurprising resolution. In the thread most closely approximating an orthodox mystery, Stella Moncrieff pleads with Isabel to exonerate her husband, a physician in disgrace for allegedly altering information on the clinical trials of a new anti-MRSA drug and causing a man’s death. Isabel is so perturbed that she wonders at one point if she’s actually being threatened. Yet all ends quietly.
Another insubstantial yet deeply rooted paean to Isabel’s status as an “intermeddler” whose reasoning begins where other literary sleuths’ ends.