The careful use of compliments by Alexander McCall Smith


Isabel Dalhousie—the nosiest and most sympathetic philosopher you are likely to meet—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. So Isabel begins an investigation and soon finds herself diverted from her musings about parenthood and onto a path of inquiry into the soul of an artist.


In a nutshell:

I read it in: English

I liked it:     Yes      

For people who like: Edinburgh, Scottish isles, philosophy

My thoughts: 

Again, I totally loved Alexander McCall Smith’s style and find it almost incredible how he writes from a woman’s point of view. This is simply amazing, he must have studied women a lot.

Isabel is a mother now. has that mellowed her? Certainly not! She is her old meddling self and again her thoughts about people and her own actions diverge considerably.

Example: She thanks Jamie (the happy father) for not going away when he learned that she was pregnant. She did think it possible that he would prefer his freedom. OK, fair enough. However, only a few pages later she gets irritated when she realizes that people had speculated about whether Jamie would stay or leave. Now, if she herself wasn’t even sure about that, she can hardly blame strangers to wonder, can she?

Her getting involved is once more completely a matter of choice. This time I found her even a little conceited. She tells an expert at a gallery about her suspicion of forgery and even though she has even less clue how to proceed in the matter she still thinks she can do more than the gallery guy.

There are a couple more issues I have with her but I am not going into great lengths about it here (her dealing with Dove which could be called spite, especially since she had no proof for what was going on; her stance on assassinating a tyrant, considering her opinion about the death penalty). All these things are part of her personality and without them the books wouldn’t be as charming as they are.

The next two instalments are already waiting for me.

Location: Edinburgh and Jura, Scotland, UK

Map Jura Barnhill Corryvreckan

Images from Google maps and wikipedia (Barnhill by zilchy111 and Corryvreckan by Russ Baum)

Product info and buy link :

Title The careful use of compliments
Author Alexander McCall Smith
Publisher Anchor
ISBN 9781400077120
I got this book from I bought it
Buy link Buy The careful use of compliments
More info Alexander McCall Smith’s website

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Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.

2 Comments Write a comment

    • I have read five stories in the series so far and really enjoy them. If you like Edinburgh, you will like those books.


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