The Quiet Side of Paradise by Alexander Mccall Smith #FridayReads #BookReview

Quiet Side

I have read most, though not all, of the Isabel Dalhousie books by Alexander McCall Smith.  Isabel is a philosopher living in a beautiful Georgian house in Edinburgh she had inherited from her father.  She is Editor of the Review of Applied Ethics – which addresses such questions as ‘Truth telling in sexual relationships’ and is married to Jamie, a younger man who is “heart-meltingly decent” and “knee-weakeningly dishy” bassoonist.  Jamie was originally the boyfriend of her niece, Cat, which has caused problems, but that does not stop Cat frequently asking Isabel to help out at her delicatessen shop.  Jamie and Isabel have two young sons, toddler Magnus and Charlie who goes to nursery. Luckily, she has sensible, forthright, Grace as housekeeper to help her with her busy life, but she and Jamie decide to employ, Antonia, a vivacious Italian au pair. She is also able to hire Claire, a young Philosophy PhD student, to help her with the Review.

But Isabel seeks out problems to solve. Charlie’s nursery friend Basil has a rather abrasive mother Patricia who begins to take advantage of her, and she decides to investigate Basil’s paternity.  In the most eventful section of the story, Isabel follows a suspicious individual into a dangerous part of the city and narrowly avoids attack. Meanwhile Antonia’s night-time activities cause worry and Claire allows the despicable Professor Lettuce into Isabel’s house.  Through it all there is the close loving relationship between Isabel and Jamie and her innate goodness and willingness to help others. These stories describe a world unfamiliar to the average reader, but the relaxing charm and the philosophical questions considered make them very appealing, at least to me.

The Quiet Side of Passion on Amazon Uk

My Review of The Peppermint Tea Chronicles


Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith is one of the world’s most prolific and most popular authors. His career has been a varied one: for many years he was a professor of Medical Law and worked in universities in the United Kingdom and abroad. Then, after the publication of his highly successful ‘No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency’ series, which has sold over twenty million copies, he devoted his time to the writing of fiction and has seen his various series of books translated into over forty-six languages and become bestsellers through the world. These include the Scotland Street novels, first published as a serial novel in The Scotsman, the Isabel Dalhousie novels, the Von Igelfeld series, and the Corduroy Mansions series, novels which started life as a delightful (but challenging to write) cross-media serial, written on the website of the Telegraph Media Group. This series won two major cross-media awards – Association of Online Publishers Digital Publishing Award 2009 for a Cross Media Project and the New Media Age award.


The Peppermint Tea Chronicles by Alexander McCall Smith #TuesdayBookBlog #Humour

Peppermint tea


It is summer in Scotland Street (as it always is) and for the habitués of Edinburgh’s favourite street some extraordinary adventures lie in waiting.

For the impossibly vain Bruce Anderson – he of the clove-scented hair gel – it may finally be time to settle down, and surely it can only be a question of picking the lucky winner from the hordes of his admirers. The Duke of Johannesburg is keen to take his flight of fancy, a microlite seaplane, from the drawing board to the skies. Big Lou is delighted to discover that her young foster son has a surprising gift for dance but she is faced with big decisions to make on his and her futures. And with Irene now away to pursue her research in Aberdeen, her husband, Stuart, and infinitely long-suffering son, Bertie, are free to play. Stuart rekindles an old friendship over peppermint tea whilst Bertie and his friend Ranald Braveheart Macpherson get more they bargained for from their trip to the circus. And that’s just the beginning . . .

Reading this book was a welcome return to the characters of Scotland Street, Edinburgh.  All ages and all sorts of characters are represented. Problems are solved and worries assuaged, usually by the kindness of others.  Like the other books in the series, there are interesting philosophical discussions and relationships develop.

My favourite characters are 7 year Bertie Pollock, his simple friend Ranald Braveheart Macpherson and their helpful adult comrade Angus Lordie with his cheerful dog Cyril.  The book is sprinkled with humour, be it the vanity of handsome Estate Agent, Bruce, making a fool of himself when he tries to show off his knowledge (or lack of it) about whisky to the owner of a distillery; or an account of the Scotch Pie company once called Pies for Protestants, then Inclusive Pies and now with the surge of nationalism, named Pure Dead Brilliant Scotch Pies (Nae Messing).

By the conclusion of the novel young Pat has found a new, rather young, boyfriend, Bertie’s father has found romance and Matthew has found a way to cheer his lonely wife who struggles with triplets Rognvald, Fergus and Tobermory.  For a feel good, thought provoking read you cannot beat the wit of Alexander McCall Smith.

Natural Causes by James Oswald #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

Natural Causes

A devastating serial killer. A chilling cold case. Only DI Tony McLean realises the connection . . .

I chose the first book in this series about DI Tony McLean after reading Rosie Amber’s review of the 10th book about this reliable, maverick policeman.  Set in Edinburgh we view the underbelly of the city as well as the rich and powerful. From the beginning we are faced with the first of a number of gruesome murders where the victims are elderly men of substance. The investigation is “lead” by the ill-tempered DCI Duguid but the Chief Superintendent wants Tony to be an important part of the team. However, he is soon diverted by the discovery of the body of a young girl, concealed behind the wall of an old house, currently being converted. The ritual killing has taken place many years earlier, but McLean is determined to solve her murder.

Tony is a likeable character with a backstory.  Concerned about his grandmother who is lying unconscious in hospital, he has little time for a private life and his determined approach to solving cases rarely includes modern methods.  His good relationship with people like Grumpy Bob, his detective sergeant and Angus, the pathologist help him to discover fresh evidence and Tony also begins to attract the attention of two young women.

There is another dimension to this story in the sense of diabolic evil which MacLean feels lies behind the murders yet there are also burglaries to be solved, unconnected to the more serious crimes.  Many of the threads come together in parallel to developments in Tony’s personal life.  I have already started to read book 2!

Natural Causes on Amazon UK

J Oswald

An author I can depend on; Alexander McCall Smith


Recently I began adding book reviews to my history site, Lost in the Past , but I have decided to move my reviews to their own blog here, which begins with a review of the most recent addition to one of my favourite series of books.

I was never caught up in the adventures of the Number One Ladies Detective Agency, perhaps because the setting is unknown to me but as soon as I had read a few pages of the first of Alexander McCall Smith’s Scotland Street stories I was captivated.

The tales of the residents of 44 Scotland Street, a fictional Georgian apartment block in a respectable part of Edinburgh, were first written as a daily column in the Scotsman and this style of short chapters concentrating on one character at a time is still adhered to in the ninth book of the series, Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers.  McCall Smith’s wit and observation of the anxieties and foibles of middle class Edinburgh residents of the 21st century, echo characters throughout Britain who are striving for success and happiness in so many foolish ways.  There is the pushy, assertive mother Irene, her long suffering civil servant husband Stuart, Bruce, the vain, empty headed estate agent, Domenica, an intellectual lady of taste but little tolerance and who could forget Cyril, the dog with a gold tooth belonging to empathetic artist Angus Lordie.  Nearby is Big Lou’s café where some of the residents meet for coffee with insipid Art shop owner Matthew who always makes a loss even with the assistance of Pat, an earnest Art history student.


But the real star is Bertie, who in the latest book, finally reaches the grand age of 7.  Bertie is a genius in spite of the yoga classes, saxophone and Italian lessons and regular visits to a psychotherapist lessons arranged by his mother.  He longs to be 18 when he can leave home to live in Glasgow and do what he wants when he wants.  He is sensitive, honest and kind and speaks with the bluntness of an innocent child.

I always wonder whether Pat’s father Dr Macgregor is actually Alexander McCall Smith’s alter ego for he is usually an observer of the lives of the others but in Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers he reveals an unexpected aspect of his private life and at last there is a chance that his daughter Pat will find happiness.

The humour is often to be found in the most annoying characters, such as Domenica’s erstwhile neighbour Antonia who turns up to stay uninvited bringing with her an Italian nun, Sister Maria Fiore dei Fiore di Montagna.  The Sister is apt to speak in aphorisms such as, “The important thing about opera is that it is sung,” which is so unexpected that it makes her the centre of polite Edinburgh society.  Matthew’s bête noir is his Danish au pair, Birgitte, who throws away his jar of marmite, his Patum Peperium and half a haggis, on the basis that they are inedible.

Much of the conversation is philosophical, among a group of people who seem to have so much more time than the rest of us.  We quickly come to know and understand the characters through hearing what they believe about life the universe and everything.

There is a feeling of ends being tied and characters blossoming in this book and I feel that Bertie will soon be too old to speak pure, unadulterated truth but hopefully I am wrong and there will be more to read about this colourful disparate group of individuals.