A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
Though the author is better known for his “No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” line and deservedly so, he has a number of other series, one of which features Isabel Dalhousie, a middle-aged woman living in Edinburgh, Scotland. She’s moderately wealthy, but is editor of a philosophy journal and collects art. Her niece, Cat, owns a deli in the neighborhood and her cleaning lady/assistant, Grace, is opinionated and fond of going to seances. The titles are poetic with a touch of humor.
While the first book was definitely a traditional mystery, as the series continues, the mysteries are of a more ethical nature; secrets and potential scandals, which allow Isabel to apply principles of philosophy to unravel them and decide on a course of action. The novels are character driven and as Isabel’s relationship with classical musician Jamie progresses, that becomes the main storyline. There are family conflicts, difficult business decisions and human encounters, both positive and negative.
The author is obviously familiar with Edinburgh and inspires in the reader a wish to visit immediately in the way he describes the architecture of old and new buildings, the small town feel and the rich culture and history. The city is detailed in crisp verbal sketches that makes it inviting.
For all of that, I will admit that these are not action packed books. They are very introspective and pedestrian and I suppose some people might find them dull. But that is what I find appealing. As I recently finished the fifth book “The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday”(the U.S. title is a bit different, for unknown reasons), I was thinking just how pleasant the book was, Isabel’s life is so fulfilling and so rich in relationships and everyday experiences. It created warm fuzzy feelings in me, without a hint of sentimentality. How often does that happen? So if you’d like a slightly different kind of mystery, with likable and engaging characters, you might want to look into Isabel Dalhousie’s lovely life in Edinburgh.