Finished Alexander McCall Smith’s The Sunday Philosophy Club on the Hangzhou-Beijing train. This is the first mystery featuring Isabel Dalhousie, who attempts to resolve life’s muddles, while holding a part-time job as the editor of The Review of Applied Ethics. Isabel sees a man plunge to his death – falling “from the gods” in her words – and cannot help investigating the sorry affair. A nice story, comfortably short, tender, humorous and sincerely compassionate, but it has too much in common to McCall Smith’s earlier, and now famous, series on Mma Ramotswe.
Like Precious, Isabel lost her mother at a young age, and her father relatively recently. Like Precious, Isabel has had one relationship at a young age that ended badly. As Precious cannot do without bush tea, so Isabel cannot do without the Times crossword. Like Precious, she has an able, if flawed, assistant who is named Grace – when I think about this last, I am sure that it is not a coincidence, and I wonder if McCall Smith is making a private joke. Yes or no, I am too much in love with the “life” in McCall Smith’s characters to resist reading the next book in the series: Friends, Lovers and Chocolate. As The Globe and Mail gushed, “Isabel lives. A series is born.”