Isabel Dalhousie thinks often of friends, sometimes of lovers, and on occasion of chocolate. As an Edinburgh philosopher she is certain of where she stands. She can review a book called In Praise of Sin with panache and conviction, but real life is . . . well, perhaps a bit more challenging - particularly when it comes to her feelings for Jamie, a younger man who should have married her niece, Cat. Jamie's handsomeness leaves Isabel feeling distinctly uneasy, and ethically disturbed. 'I am a philosopher', she thinks, 'but I am also a woman'. And more disturbance is in store. When Cat takes a break in Italy, Isabel agrees to run her delicatessen. One of the customers, she discovers, has recently had a heart transplant and is now being plagued by memories that cannot be rationally explained and which he feels do not belong to him. Isabel is intrigued. So intrigued that she finds herself rushing headlong into a dangerous investigation. But she still has time to think about the things that possess her - things like love and friendship, and, of course, temptation. The last of these comes in many forms - chocolate, for example, or seductive Italians . . .
The second installment of McCall Smith's Sunday Philosophy Club series sports a charmingly meandering plot and winningly hyperverbal characters no surprise to fans of Isabel Dalhousie's debut, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books, or any of McCall Smith's 50-plus titles. Once again, Edinburgh's Dalhousie, intrepid editor of a philosophy journal, finds herself analyzing other people's problems when asked to fill in for her niece Cat, at Cat's gourmet food shop-cum-delicatessen. At the shop, Isabel meets Ian, who is haunted by visions of a man he comes to believe must be the murdered donor of his transplanted heart. As McCall Smith lovingly takes Isabel sleuthing across Edinburgh, the donor's stepfather (a man Ian has never seen) turns out to look much like the man of Ian's nightmares. Meanwhile, Cat's romantic rejects find their way, via the shop, into Isabel's social set, including former major beau Jamie, a classical musician who, though 15 years younger, becomes Isabel's confidant. A delicious mix of the unlikely and the tried-and-true, this latest cozy from an undisputed master will make readers feel just that. 9-city author tour.