The Forgotten Affairs of Youth

Alexander McCall Smith, Author
Alexander McCall Smith. Pantheon, $24.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-307-37918-4
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You needn’t be a series-long admirer of Isabel Dalhousie to be beguiled by this curious philosopher and casual sleuth. In this eighth installment—with the ruminating Edinburgh heroine steeped in devoted motherhood, impending marriage, and office and family intrigue—it might even help to be a stranger to her more daring exploits; here, No. 1 Ladies’ Detectives Agency series phenom McCall Smith has his quirky gumshoe stalking moral intrigue more doggedly than mystery. It’s Isabel’s mission to help a visiting Australian philosopher find her father after her adoptive parents and birth mother die. The task is deceptively easy and never comes close to matching the confounding mysteries of Isabel’s niece’s fickle heart, the wisdom of ratting her out to health officials for a batch of toxic mushrooms, the impermanence of the greatest love of her life, or how to raise her adorable toddler with fiancé Jamie. Isabel believes only the examined life is worth living, and fearlessly so: “she would never accept things as they were. That was what made her do what she did—practice philosophy—and what made her... do battle for understanding, for sympathy, for love; in small ways... that cumulatively made a difference.” It makes Isabel a heroine worth following, even through this more quiet, reflective foray. (Dec.)
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