cover image The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday

The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday

Alexander McCall Smith, . . Pantheon, $22.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-375-42513-4

In Smith's winning fifth novel to feature Edinburgh philosophical sleuth Isabel Dalhousie (after The Careful Use of Compliments ), Dalhousie, who's recently assumed ownership of the obscure journal she's edited for many years, the Review of Applied Ethics , applies her deductive gifts to the case of a disgraced doctor. When a patient dies after taking a new antibiotic that Marcus Moncrieff deemed safe in clinical trials, the doctor's original report turns out to contain falsified data. Did Moncrieff skew the data to please the drug manufacturers? Moncrieff's wife turns to Isabel for help in lifting her husband out of his despondency. While the truth isn't straightforward, the motives of the guilty party prove to be both plausible and rational. The strengths of the book, as with Smith's better known No. 1 Ladies' Detective series, lie in its protagonist's determination to treat others without judgment—and in the author's revealing glimpses into the human soul. (Sept.)