“The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds” by Alexander McCall Smith

There are few new ways to praise the books by this author: witty, gentle, Scottish, loveable. The new one is all of these with the added dimension of a first-rate mystery plot.

The book falls in the Isabel Dalhousie series. McCall Smith is a retired professor at the University of Edinburgh. Readers will recognize books from the No l. Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, the 44 Scotland Street series and the Corduroy Mansions series. In this one, we follow Isabel, the attractive young mother, as she edits her journal on ethics, cares for her musician husband and 3-year old son, Charlie. Into this busy life steps a request to help find the thief who stole a valuable Poussin painting from an old Scots household.

Isabel gets close to danger when she agrees to meet “accomplices of the thief.” Through clever questioning on her own, however, she manages to avoid serious trouble with the police, etc. We are left with a satisfactory ending that only McCall Smith could dream up. It makes for a very good read, Christmas-time, or any time.

Review by Anne McDougall