Friday, July 12, 2013

The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds (Mystery Novel)

But Cat says that you’re always interfering. She says that you get mixed up in all sorts of things and that you help people. She told me. And everybody know it. They know that if they need something sorted, they can go to you.”
In the above quote, Eddie, an employee of Isabel's niece, perfectly sums up the Isabel Dalhouse novels. The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds by Alexander McCall Smith is the ninth novel in the series. It is part mystery, part philosophical musings, and part a gentle look at life. It appeals more to our right brains than our left.

Briefly, Isabel is approached by a “friend” whose friend, Duncan Munrowe, has had a very expensive painting stolen. In a bold move, the thief has chosen to use an intermediary to negotiate a type of ransom. Isabel tries to find out who stole the painting while she also offers emotional support to Duncan.

But the novel is really about people. Duncan ‘s relationship with his children takes center stage. Isabel and her husband Jamie are at odds with Grace, their beloved housekeeper, on how to best raise Charlie. Isabel learns more about Eddie’s painful past. Isabel struggles with biting her tongue and being kind.

The book is also about philosophy. Some of the discussions are abstract. What do we owe to future generations? How important is ethnic identity? Others are to close to home:
It was all very well being the editor of a journal of applied ethics; you could deliberate to your heart’s content on the rightness or wrongness of action, but none of it was real; not until somebody actually came up to you, as Duncan now was doing, and said: "Tell me what to do."
Part of me wonders why I read the Isabel Dalhouse novels; perhaps they are a bit highbrow for me. I don’t know much about art. I can’t relate much to wealth. I’ve never even been to Scotland. Yet, I know I sleep better when I have read one of Alexander McCall Smith’s books during the day. I feel more compassionate towards people. I look at life differently. I find myself replaying scenes in my mind. I find a kind of gentleness walks with me throughout my day. For me, The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds is not only a book; it is also a balm to soothe a troubled soul, at least for a few hours.

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