Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Friends, Lovers, Chocolate: An Isabel Dalhousie Mystery by Alexander McCall Smith

Isabel Dalhousie lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, and edits The Review of Applied Ethics from her home. It is good that she is independently wealthy, for her job does not pay well, but she is devoted to the work. Each day's mail brings countless manuscripts from philosophers worldwide, which Isabel opens in a daily ritual with Grace, her housekeeper. The topics are varied. When one submission questions the ethics of taking home excess rolls from a restaurant's bread basket (Grace says that taking what is not yours is stealing), she proposes a special issue of The Review devoted to the ethics of food. She is particularly curious about the ethics of eating chocolate, which might be unhealthy. What belief system allows people to continue to eat the popular food?

Part of Friends, Lovers, Chocolate reminds me of old Russian novels. A loves B, who does not love A, but is crazy for C, who is looking for Mr. D. E comes along, and A considers him, but he is also crazy about C, who tries to avoid him. How all these people can cope with their feelings civilly is part of the continuing story in the series of Isabel Dalhousie Mysteries.

Isabel's editing work is often interrupted by her getting involved in other people's mysteries. Her new friend Ian, who has a transplanted heart, begins to see a face in his dreams. Could it be the person who killed the heart donor? She is skeptical, but feels ethically bound to investigate.

I enjoyed listening to Friends, Lovers, Chocolate on compact discs narrated by British-born actress Davina Porter. McCall Smith works many topics of interest into his mysteries. I recommend this comic novel with many serious comments on life and love.

McCall Smith, Alexander. Friends, Lovers, Chocolate: An Isabel Dalhousie Mystery. New York: Pantheon Books, 2005. ISBN 0375422994

7 compact discs. Prince Frederick, Maryland: Recorded Books, 2005. ISBN 1419348949

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