A Whydunit Tale
Bunny Suraiya
THE SUNDAY PHILOSOPHY CLUB by Alexander McCall Smith Abacus, 2006, 297 pp., £2.50
January 2006, volume 30, No 1

Isabel Dalhousie is the literary descendant of Emma Woodhouse in Jane Austen’s eponymous novel. Like Miss Woodhouse, Miss Dalhousie is a lady of comfortable means, solidly upper middle class and with an interest in people which the uncharitable would say borders on the “meddlesome”. But there the comparison ends. Emma Woodhouse has none of the intellectual rigour that distinguishes Isabel Dalhousie, who, apart from being the editor of a philosophical journal, The Review of Applied Ethics, also solves mysteries that come her way, in an investigative style that focuses not so much on whodunit as whydunit. Indeed, it is her constant questionings, her posing of moral dilemmas, the case continually being made out for and against situational ethics, that makes Isabel Dalhousie such a fascinating character, and this book such an enjoyable read. No activity is too mundane for Isabel to ponder its’ rightness – and to make the reader do so as well. Take for instance, the everyday task of reading the newspaper.

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