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What is The Isabel Dalhousie series about?
Written by the British-Zimbabwean author Alexander McCall Smith, The Sunday Philosophy Club or the Isabel Dalhousie series is about a philosopher and amateur sleuth.
Set in Edinburgh, Scotland, the series follows Isabel Dalhousie, a curious philosopher and woman detective, who loves to investigate all kinds of mysteries, searching for the truth, in a philosophical way or not.
Isabel is always ready to pursue the answers to all of life’s questions, but she also has to help her friends and family members in need.
How to read The Isabel Dalhousie Books in Order?
Every book in the Isabel Dalhousie series works as a standalone story, but the lives of the different characters evolve from one novel to the other.
- The Sunday Philosophy Club – Isabel Dalhousie is a philosopher by training, and an amateur sleuth by choice. When a young man falls from a balcony to his death, Isabel does not believe it was an accident. Plunging deep into the shady business community of Edinburgh, she is determined to root out the truth.
- Friends, Lovers, Chocolate – When Isabel Dalhousie is asked to cover for vacationing Cat at her delicatessen, Isabel meets a man with a most interesting problem. He recently had a heart transplant and is suddenly haunted by memories of events that never happened to him.The situation piques her insatiable curiosity: Could the memories be connected with the donor’s demise?
- The Right Attitude to Rain – When friends from Dallas arrive in Edinburgh and introduce Isabel Dalhousie to Tom Bruce – a bigwig at home in Texas – several confounding situations unfurl at once. Tom’s young fiancee’s roving eye leads Isabel to believe that money may be the root of her love for Tom. But what, Isabel wonders, is the root of the interest Tom begins to show for Isabel herself? And she can’t forget about her niece, Cat, who’s busy falling for a man whom Isabel suspects of being an incorrigible mama’s boy.
- The Careful Use of Compliments – Isabel Dalhousie now has a son, Charlie, whose doting father Jamie has an intriguing idea to pose to Isabel: marriage. But Isabel wonders if Jamie is too young to be serious? And how would Cat respond? On top of these matters, the ambitious Professor Dove has seized Isabel’s position as editor of the Review of Applied Ethics. However, nothing it seems can diminish Isabel’s innate curiosity. And when she recognizes that two paintings attributed to a deceased artist have simultaneously appeared on the market, she can’t help but think that they’re forgeries.
- The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday – A doctor’s career has been ruined by allegations of medical fraud and Isabel cannot ignore what may be a miscarriage of justice. Besides, Isabel Dalhousie’s insatiable interest is piqued and she finds herself asking questions. Would a respected doctor make such a grave mistake? If not, what explains the death of the patient?
- The Lost Art of Gratitude – Isabel Dalhousie’s son, Charlie, is only eighteen months, but his social life is already kicking into high gear, and it’s at a birthday party, where Isabel is approached by Minty Auchterlonie, an old adversary and now a high-flying financier. Minty, it seems, is having trouble in her personal life, and seeks Isabel’s help.
- The Charming Quirks of Others – Isabel has been asked to discreetly investigate the candidates for the position of headmaster at a local boys’ school. The board has three final candidates but has received an anonymous letter alleging that one of them is not suitable.What she discovers about the candidates is surprising, but what she discovers about herself and about Jamie, the father of her young son, turns out to be equally revealing.
- The Forgotten Affairs of Youth – Isabel Dalhousie’s new friend Jane Cooper, a visiting Australian philosopher who was adopted as a small child, has come to Edinburgh searching for information about her biological father. Naturally, Isabel is more than happy to offer her services. At the same time, she must find time for her own concerns: her young son Charlie, who’s leaving babyhood further behind each day; her housekeeper Grace, who has recently begun getting financial advice from her spiritualist; her niece Cat, who’s in a new relationship, and the most pressing question of all: when and how Isabel and Jamie will finally get married.
- The Perils of Morning Coffee (short story) – Summer in Edinburgh is a season of delicate sunshine and showers, picnics with loved ones in blossoming gardens, and genteel celebrations of art and music. But Isabel Dalhousie’s peaceful idyll is broken when a single meeting over coffee with fellow philosopher Dr. George McLeod brings an irate phone call from his wife, Roz, who implacably accuses Isabel of conducting an affair with her husband.
- The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds – Isabel Dalhousie answers an unexpected appeal from wealthy art collector Duncan Munrowe. A work by the celebrated French artist Nicolas Poussin has been stolen from Munrowe’s private collection. Never one to refuse a request for help, Isabel agrees to help recover the painting, and discovers that the thieves may be closer to the owner than he ever would have expected.
- The Novel Habits of Happiness – Isabel Dalhousie takes on a case unlike any she’s had before: a six-year-old boy has been experiencing vivid recollections of a past life. His visions include a perfect description of a Scottish island and a house where he claims to have lived. The boy’s mother asks Isabel to investigate, but her findings continue to perplex as her efforts to seek rational explanations are thwarted by the unusual mystery unfolding before her.
- At the Reunion Buffet (short story) – Isabel Dalhousie has generously agreed to host the opening dinner for her school reunion weekend. Twenty-five former classmates will descend upon her home, bringing with them new names, new looks, and old reputations. While some will see the reunion as an opportunity to forge new friendships and reaffirm old ones, others aren’t interested in changing their minds about the past.
- Sweet, Thoughtful Valentine (short story) – Isabel Dalhousie has an unstinting commitment to her principles. Sticking to her promises has always been one of them. Then Isabel runs into an old classmate facing marital and financial troubles, who reveals a secret that becomes more and more difficult for Isabel to keep.
- A Distant View of Everything – A new baby brings an abundance of joy to Isabel Dalhousie and her husband, Jamie—but almost-four-year-old Charlie is none too keen on his newborn brother. In fact, he refuses to acknowledge Magnus, and Isabel must find a way to impress upon her older son the patience and understanding that have served as guiding principles in her own life. These are the very qualities that bring Bea Shandon, an old acquaintance of Isabel’s, to seek her help in a tricky situation.
- The Quiet Side of Passion – With two small boys to raise, a mountain of articles to edit for the Review of Applied Ethics, and the ever-increasing demands of her niece, Cat, who always seems to need a helping hand at the deli, Isabel Dalhousie barely has any time for herself. Her husband, Jamie, suggests acquiring extra help, and she reluctantly agrees. In no time at all, Isabel and Jamie have a new au pair, and Isabel has an intelligent assistant editor to share her workload. Both women, though, have romantic entanglements that threaten to interfere with their work, and Isabel must decide how best to navigate this tricky domestic situation.
- The Geometry of Holding Hands – In Edinburgh, rumors and gossip abound. But Isabel Dalhousie well knows that such things can’t be taken at face value. Still, the latest whispers hint at mysterious goings-on, and who but Isabel can be trusted to get to the bottom of them? At the same time, she must deal with the demands of her two small children, her husband, and her rather tempestuous niece, Cat.
- The Sweet Remnants of Summer – Isabel accepts an invitation to serve on the advisory committee of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, but soon finds herself swept up in an all-too-familiar dilemma. David is the grandson of a Scottish clan chief and is supportive of Scottish nationalism. But his fervent beliefs are threatening family harmony, especially because his sister Catriona’s socialist views put her at odds with her brother. When their mother, Laura, a fellow committee member, asks Isabel to intervene, she tries to demur. But always one for courteous resolutions to philosophical disagreements, Isabel can’t help but intercede.