The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds

Alexander McCall Smith, Author
Alexander McCall Smith. Pantheon, $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-307-90733-2
Reviewed on: 08/27/2012
Release date: 10/23/2012
In Smith's delightful ninth novel featuring Isabel Dalhousie (after 2011's The Forgotten Affairs of Youth), Isabel, "somebody who sorts out people's difficulties" when she's not editing the Review of Applied Ethics, assists a wealthy Scottish gentleman, Duncan Munrowe, with a tricky situation. One of Munrowe's favorite paintings, a Poussin, has been stolen, and he wants her help in dealing with the thieves (there's talk of a ransom). A minor subplot involves the endearing Eddie, who works in her niece Cat's deli, and his romantic woes. The almost too-good-to-be-true Isabel does her usual thing—talking, listening, and puzzling through the ethical implications of things—to bring about a fitting, and just, resolution. With his usual deft hand, Smith conjures characters with a few lines—housekeeper Grace with her short fuse is particularly alive—and he has a knack for combining light comedy and serious thought. The plot (not untypically for the series or the author) is as gossamer thin as even the thinnest clouds, though it's a pleasure to watch it scudding past. Agent: Robin Straus. (Oct.)
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