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The charming quirks of others / Alexander McCall Smith.

By: McCall Smith, Alexander, 1948-.
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookSeries: Sunday Philosophy club: 7.; Isabel Dalhousie: 7.Publisher: New York : Pantheon Books, c2010Description: 256 pages ; 22 cm.Content type: text Media type: unmediated Carrier type: volumeISBN: 9780307379177(hbk).Subject(s): Dalhousie, Isabel (Fictitious character) -- Fiction | Women philosophers -- Fiction | Edinburgh (Scotland) -- FictionGenre/Form: Detective and mystery fiction.DDC classification: Summary: A couple who are old friends of Isabel Dalhousie's ask for her help in a rather tricky situation: A successor is being sought for the headmaster position at their alma mater. The board has four final candidates but has received an anonymous letter alleging that one of them has a very serious skeleton in the closet. Could Isabel discreetly look into it?
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

ISABEL DALHOUSIE - Book 7

Nothing captures the charm of Edinburgh like the bestselling Isabel Dalhousie series of novels featuring the insatiably curious philosopher and woman detective.nbsp; Whether investigating a case or a problem of philosophy, the indefatigable Isabel Dalhousie, one of fiction's most richly developed amateur detectives, is always ready to pursue the answers to all of life's questions, large and small.

Isabel has been asked for her help in a rather tricky situation: A successor is being sought for the headmaster at a local boys' school. The board has three final candidates but has received an anonymous letter alleging that one of them has a very serious skeleton in the closet. Could Isabel discreetly look into it? And so she does. What she discovers about all the candidates is surprising, but what she discovers about herself and about Jamie, the father of her young son, turns out to be equally revealing.
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Isabel's investigation will have her exploring issues of ambition, as well as of charity, forgiveness, and humility, as she moves nearer and nearer to some of the most hidden precincts of the heart.
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Here is Isabel Dalhousie at her beguiling best: intelligent, insightful, and with a unique understanding of the quirks of human nature.

A couple who are old friends of Isabel Dalhousie's ask for her help in a rather tricky situation: A successor is being sought for the headmaster position at their alma mater. The board has four final candidates but has received an anonymous letter alleging that one of them has a very serious skeleton in the closet. Could Isabel discreetly look into it?

11

Excerpt provided by Syndetics

THE NEXT DAY was a working day for Isabel. As editor--and now owner--of the Review of Applied Ethics, she could determine her own working patterns, but only to an extent. The journal was quarterly, which might have led outsiders to think that Isabel's job could hardly be onerous. Such outsiders would be wrong--as outsiders usually are about most things. Although three months intervened between the appearance of each issue of the journal, those three months were regulated by a series of chores that were as regular as the tides, and as unforgiving. Papers had to be sent out for review and, if accepted for publication, edited. The professors of philosophy who wrote these papers were, as Isabel had discovered, only human; they made mistakes in their grammar--egregious mis­takes in some cases even if in others only minor solecisms. She corrected most of these, trying not to seem too pedantic in the process. She allowed the collective plural: If you wish to reform a person, you should tell them --Isabel allowed the them because there were those who objected strongly to gendered pronouns. So you could not tell him in such circumstances, but would have to tell him or her, which became ungainly and awkward, and sounded like the punctilious language of the legal draughtsman. She also allowed infinitives to be split, which they were with great regularity, because that rule was now almost universally ignored and its authority, anyway, was questionable. Who established that precept, anyway? Why not split an infinitive if one wanted to? The sense was as easily understood whether or not the infinitive was sundered apart or left inviolate.   But it was not just the editing of papers that took up her time. An important part of each issue was the review section, where four or five recent books in the field of ethics were reviewed at some length, and a few others, less favoured, were given brief notices. Then there was a short column headed Books Received, which listed other books that had been sent by publishers and were not going to be given a review. It was an ignominious fate for a book, but it was better than nothing. At least the journal acknowledged the fact that the book had been published, which was perhaps as much as some authors could hope for. Some books, even less favoured, got not even that; they fell leaden from the presses, unread, unremarked upon by anyone. Yet somewhere, behind those unreadable tomes, there was an author, the proud parent of that particular book, for whom it might even be the crowning achievement of a career; and all that happened on publication was silence, a profound and unfathomable silence.   That morning, four large padded envelopes were sitting on Isabel's desk in her large Victorian house in Merchiston. She closed the study door behind her, and looked at her desk. The four packages were clearly books--they had that look to them-- and several other envelopes which her housekeeper, Grace, had retrieved from the floor of the hall were just as evidently papers submitted for publication. It would take her until lunchtime to deal with these, she decided; Jamie had a free morning-- no bassoon pupils and no rehearsals--which meant that he could devote his time to his son. They were going to Blackford Pond, where the ducks were a source of infinite fascination to Charlie. Then they would go somewhere else, he said, but he had yet to decide where. "Charlie will have views," he said. "He'll tell me."   Charlie now spoke quite well, in primitive sentences with a subject--as often as not himself--and a verb, usually in the present tense but occasionally in the past. His past tense, Isabel had noticed, had a special ring to it. "It is a special past tense he uses," she said to Jamie. "It is the past regretful. The past regretful is used to express regret over what has happened. All gone is a past regretful, as is Ducks eaten all bread. " He still talked about olives, of course; olive had been his first word, and his appetite for olives was as strong as ever. Olives nice, he had said to Isabel the previous day, and she, too, thought that they were nice. They had then looked at one another, Charlie staring at his mother with the intense gaze of childhood. She had waited for him to say something more, but he had not. They had said everything there was to say about olives, it seemed, and so she bent forward and kissed him lightly on his forehead.   She thought of that now as she surveyed her desk. She sighed; she was a mother, but she was also an editor, and a philosopher, and she had to work. Settling herself at her desk, she opened the first of the book parcels. Two books tumbled out, accompanied by a compliments slip on which a careless hand had scribbled For favour of a review. Underneath was the date of publication and a request that no review should appear before then. That, thought Isabel, was easily enough complied with, given that journal reviews were sometimes published as much as two years after publication. She herself had reviewed a book eighteen months after publication and had only discovered after her review had been published that the author had died six months previously. It was not a good book, and in her review she had written that she felt that the author's next book on the subject would be much better. Worse than that, she had com­mented on a certain lifelessness in the prose. Well, he was dead; perhaps he was dying when he wrote the book. She shuddered at the memory. She had tried to be charitable, but she had not been charitable enough. Remember that, she said to herself; remember that in your dealings with others--they may be dying.   The two books looked interesting enough. One was on the moral implications of being a twin; the second was on the notion of fairness in economic judgements. She was not greatly excited by the economics book--that would be received, she thought . . . unless the author was dying, of course. She turned to the back flap and looked at the photograph of the author. He looked young, she decided, and healthy enough to write another book, which might get a full review. He could be placed in the received pile without risk of . . . she was about to say injus­tice to herself, when she realised she was being unjust. Just because she was not particularly interested in discussions of fairness in economics, that did not mean that others would not be. No, she would promote the book to the Brief Notice section. That was fair. As for the twins book, on opening it, she saw this sentence: "Because moral obligation comes with close­ness, there is a case for saying that the twin owes a greater duty to his or her twin than is owed by non-twins to their siblings." She frowned. Why? She flicked through several pages and read, at random, "Of the many dilemmas confronting the twin, a par­ticularly demanding one is the decision whether or not to tell one's twin of a medical diagnosis received. If one twin is diag­nosed with a genetic disease, for example a form of cancer in which there is a strong familial element, then the other twin should know." That, said Isabel to herself, is not a dilemma. You tell.   The twins book would have to be reviewed, and it occurred to Isabel that it would be interesting to have it reviewed by somebody who was a twin. But the twin would have to be a philosopher, and she was not sure if she knew any person answering that description. The author, perhaps, might know; she would write to him and ask him. Of course she could not commit herself to any name that he suggested--authors could not choose their reviewers--but it would be a start.   She opened the next parcel and extracted from it a slender book bound in blue. Tucked into it was a folded letter, which she took out and opened. She saw the heading of the notepaper first and caught her breath. Then she read it.   The letter came from Professor Lettuce, the previous chair­man of the Review 's editorial board and friend and collaborator of Professor Christopher Dove, the closest thing to an enemy that Isabel was aware of possessing. She had not chosen Dove as an enemy--he had assumed that role himself, and had revealed a ruthless streak in the process. He had recently accused Isabel of publishing a plagiarised article, but had been seen off. Lettuce had initially backed him, but had been per­suaded by Isabel to change his ways--"I have been a foolish Lettuce" was his memorable remark on that occasion. Now it appeared that Dove and Lettuce were friends again, because here was Lettuce sending Isabel a new book by Dove and offer­ing to review it. Dear Isabel [wrote Lettuce], I hope that this finds you well and that the Review is thriving in your capable hands. Our mutual friend [ our mutual friend, Isabel muttered sotto voce ] Chris Dove [Chris!] has, as you may know, written a rather interest­ing new book. I'm not sure if the publishers have sent you a copy--perhaps they have--but at the risk of bur­dening you with numerous copies, here is another one. I thought I might offer to review it for you, and have started penning a few thoughts, if that's all right with you. I'll do about two thousand words because I think that this is a work that deserves a decent discussion. I'm a bit pressed at the moment--this wretched research assessment business is such a burden--and Dolly [ Dolly Lettuce, his wife, thought Isabel. Poor woman. Dolly! ] is in the middle of making redecoration plans for our house at Wimbledon, so all is rather fraught on the domestic front--but I should be able to get it done by the end of the month and will send it along then.   Thanks so much for agreeing to this, and please-- please --do get in touch with me when you wrench yourself away from the provinces and come to London.   Lunch will be on me.   All best,   Robert Lettuce   Isabel felt the discomfort of being outraged but not being sure of which cause of her outrage was the more significant. Lettuce had casually insulted Scotland--which was not a province of England, but a country--and an old one at that-- within a union with England. Nothing could be more calculated to annoy a Scotswoman, and Lettuce should have known that. But that was merely a matter of personal pride, which Isabel could swallow easily enough; it was more difficult for her to deal with the breathtaking arrogance of his assumption that he could write a review without being asked. He thanked her for agreeing to publish his review--well, she had not agreed and felt highly inclined not to do so, and she would not be bought off with a breezy invitation to lunch in London.   She would write to Lettuce, she decided, and thank him for offering to review Dove's book, but would say that she must-- very reluctantly--decline his offer because . . . She thought of reasons. It would be tempting to say that it was because Dove's book was not of sufficient interest to merit a review--that was very tempting. Or she might say that she had decided to review the book herself. That was perhaps even more tempting, because it would give her the chance to cast Dove's book into the outer darkness that it undoubtedly deserved. "This slight contribution to the literature," she might write, "is unlikely to find many readers." Or, "An effort to elucidate a difficult topic-- courageous, yes, but unfortunately a failure."   She stopped herself. Such thoughts, she told herself, were crude fantasies of revenge. Dove had plotted against her and would have succeeded in hounding her out of her job had she not had the resources to buy the Review from under his nose, and then get rid not only of him but also of Lettuce, who had been his co-conspirator. Dove had planned her removal, but that did not mean that she should stoop to his level and seek revenge by writing a critical review of his book. That would be quite wrong.   She looked up at the ceiling. One of the drawbacks to being a philosopher was that you became aware of what you should not do, and this took from you so many opportunities to savour the human pleasure of revenge or greed or sheer fantasising. Well might St. Augustine have said Make me chaste, but not just yet; that was how Isabel felt. And yet she could not; she could not let herself experience the pleasure of getting her own back on Dove because it was, quite simply, always wrong to get one's own back on another. It was her duty to forgive Dove and, if one were to be really serious about it, to go further than that and to love him. Hate the acts of Doves, not Doves themselves, she muttered; they said that about sin, did they not? Hate the sin, not the sinner.   She put aside Lettuce's letter and picked up Dove's book. She read the title, Freedom and Choice: The Limits of Responsi­bility in a Role-Fixated World. She wrinkled her nose. Was the world really role-fixated? Freedom of choice, though, was a sub­ject in which she was interested, and indeed she had written on the subject when she was still a graduate research fellow. Turn­ing to the end of the book, she found an annotated bibliography. She could see that Dove had been assiduous in his marshalling of the literature, and there, yes, there were her two papers on this subject. And after the first of these--a paper that had been published in the Journal of Philosophy, and which had been fairly widely cited--was Dove's annotation. He had used only one word: Unreliable.    From the Hardcover edition. Excerpted from The Charming Quirks of Others by Alexander McCall Smith All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Library Journal Review

In McCall Smith's (www.mccallsmith.com) seventh Isabel Dalhousie mystery-following The Lost Art of Gratitude (2009), also available from Recorded Books-the Scottish philosophy scholar investigates three candidates for a school administrator's position while continuing her work as a journal editrix, as Charlie the toddler's mom, and as fiancee to younger beau Jaime. McCall Smith does an admirable job of keeping the story lines distinct from one another, merging them when appropriate. A subtle, well-written, and often humorous story that will please fans of both the author and this series. Fans of Agatha Christie, Ruth Rendell, and M.C. Beaton, too, may find it worth investigating. British actress/Audie Award-winning series narrator Davina Porter breathes life into Isabel and the various other Scottish characters. ["Pure comfort reading," read the largely positive review of the Pantheon hc, LJ Xpress Reviews, 9/10/10.-Ed.]--Nicole A. Cooke, Montclair State Univ. Lib., NJ (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Review

Isabel, moral philosopher and amateur detective, living in McCall Smith's Edenic Edinburgh, has plenty of time between investigations to ponder the pettiness of her neighbors and engage in self-introspection. The case demanding her expertise requires her to probe into the backgrounds of three candidates for a headmaster's job at a local boys' school, instigated by a mysterious anonymous letter. But Isabel's investigations are secondary to her quotidian preoccupations. The series is charmingly narrated by Davina Porter, who has locked in her portrayals of Isabel, Jamie, and their son, Charlie. As usual, Porter settles on just the right tone for every newcomer. She provides McCall Smith fans with another dead-on performance worth lingering over. A Pantheon hardcover (Reviews, Aug. 16). (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

The seventh entry in McCall Smith's series featuring moral philosopher Isabel Dalhousie finds the fortysomething Edinburgh resident drawn into an investigation of three candidates vying for the headmaster position at a local boys' school. It seems that the selection committee has received an anonymous letter alleging that one of the three candidates has engaged in behavior that would cause the school serious embarrassment. But which one? As Isabel makes discreet inquiries about the candidates' backgrounds, she learns that her much younger lover, Jamie, is anxious to give up his bachelor pad, marry Isabel, and move in with her and their toddler son, Charlie. But Isabel suspects that Jamie is not telling her everything about his sudden desire to make a mad dash for the altar. For Isabel, no decision is straightforward; there are always complications and nuances that must be given their proper due. With Isabel's shrewd and frequently funny assessments of people and McCall Smith's heady quotations from W. H. Auden, among others, the Isabel Dalhousie series continues to instruct and amuse. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: McCall Smith is best known for his No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency novels, but the Isabel Dalhousie series, showcasing the author's native Scotland, also has its devotees.--Wilkinson, Joanne Copyright 2010 Booklist

Kirkus Book Review

Edinburgh moral philosopher Isabel Dalhousie's seventh round of adventures among ethical conundrums (The Lost Art of Gratitude, 2009, etc.) marks her finest hour to date.Harold Slade, principal of the Bishop Forbes School, is leaving for a post in Singapore, and the school's board of governors, headed by retired businessman Alex Mackinlay, has prepared a short list of three possible replacements: mountain-climbing enthusiast John Fraser, ambitious math teacher Gordon Leafers and Tom Simpson, who Mackinlay thinks none too bright. It's all business as usual until someone complicates the process by writing an anonymous letter warning that one of the three finalists harbors a secret that would seriously embarrass the school if he were appointed. What to do? Naturally, Mackinlay's wife Jillian takes it upon herself to enlist the help of Isabel, a casual acquaintance she met at a dinner party. It's an inspired choice, because in addition to her gift for moral clarity and fierce integrity, Isabel turns out to have surprisingly intimate connections to two of the candidates. Along the way, she'll have to deal with her fianc Jamie's temptation by dying cellist Prue McKay, her niece Cat's latest problematic boyfriend, her plan to bid on a Raeburn canvas picturing a long-dead relative and, of course, the latest schemes of Professors Robert Lettuce and Christopher Dove, the banes of Isabel's journal, the Review of Applied Ethics. This time, however, the mystery of the anonymous letter remains central until Isabel resolves it in an uncommonly satisfying way.A powerful demonstration of Smith's ability to dramatize the ways everyday situations spawn the ethical dilemmas that keep philosophers in business.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.