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The Sunday Philosophy Club (Isabel Dalhousie #1)

3.36  ·  Rating Details ·  16,160 Ratings  ·  1,883 Reviews
Nothing captures the charm of Edinburgh like the bestselling Isabel Dalhousie series of novels featuring the insatiably curious philosopher and woman detective. Whether investigating a case or a problem of philosophy, the indefatigable Isabel Dalhousie, one of fiction’s most richly developed amateur detectives, is always ready to pursue the answers to all of life’s questio ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published July 12th 2005 by Anchor (first published January 1st 2004)
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Ann Beckemeyer I've read several of Alexander McCall Smith's books in his "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" series and loved them all. So I thought this book would be…moreI've read several of Alexander McCall Smith's books in his "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" series and loved them all. So I thought this book would be just as entertaining. I forced myself to finish the book, but also found it to move extremely slow and not always focused on the murder mystery. So often he went off on tangents about philosophy that took up 2 to 3 pages in the book; way too much. I also found it odd that the Sunday Philosophy Club never once met in this book. I would have found it interesting to meet the people in that group. I also felt the book ended abruptly. I did enjoy the murder mystery itself! I'm still debating on whether or not to read more in this series. (less)

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This is a quick and likeable read that is mildly engaging. It is the first of the philosopher Isabel Dalhousie series set in Edinburgh. She edits a philosophy journal on applied ethics and ponders on the ethics and morality on the minutae of life. Upon seeing a man fall from a balcony at Usher Hall, she wonders if its just a case of being unlucky or murder. She settles on murder and delves into the mystery which gives rise to numerous ethical issues. She is aided by her wise and able housekeeper ...more
I was just telling a friend that I rarely leave two-star reviews, but this is one of them. I probably wouldn't have read the entire book (Davina Porter's usual terrific narration notwithstanding), except for the resolution of the "mystery" presented at the outset; to avoid a spoiler, I'll leave it that Smith handles that aspect well in terms of a surprise.
What isn't handled so well are the characters - there wasn't a single one I care to hear about enough to read the second book in this series.
Mar 17, 2008 Ellie rated it really liked it
To be honest, I'd have to call this series a guilty pleasure. The plotlines don't always ring true to life, although I've never been a wealthy philosopher living in Scotland, with a major crush on my niece's ex-boyfriend, a bassoon player who's at least a decade younger than me. I'm not as intellectual as Isabel, or as nosy, but I happen to love anyone who ponders the bigger moral questions in life, and who loves a crossword puzzle and a cup of freshly brewed coffee. So there you have it. Althou ...more
Jan 30, 2009 Gayle rated it did not like it
Alexander McCall Smith is best known for his No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, of which I am a fan. He has another series featuring Isabel Dalhousie, a cultured and wealthy Scottish lady (and I use the term advisedly), which sounds far more like my usual preference than a genial African woman. So I began the first book in the Dalhousie series, The Sunday Philosophy Club, with great anticipation.

Alas, my hopes foundered. It started off well enough; Isabel sees a man fall past her, from the t
Aug 14, 2008 Sharon rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who wonder about life
Recommended to Sharon by: read other words by the author
Shelves: mccall-smith
I didn't think I would like this series as I found myself comparing Isabel to Precious (from the author's other series 'The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency). The contrasts were obvious.Isabel Dalhousie is a very different heroine from Precious. Where Precious was a gentle simple soul Isabel is complex creature. Precious accepts life as it is and Isabel wonders why? As time went on I found myself growing fond of Isabel. She is just as fascinating a creature as Precious once you understand her.

Oct 19, 2007 Joanna rated it it was ok
I wasn't crazy about the narrator. She's too airy to narrate a whodunit. The protagonist, Isabel Dalhousie, is the editor of an ethics magazine and the asides about ethics and philosophy are as dry as they sound - the ethical quandaries she finds herself in aren't engaging. And she needs a flaw - committing ethical hypocrisy, farting in an elevator, something. It's no wonder she can't get the Sunday Philosophy Club together because she's so boring! (Why is that the name of the book when they nev ...more
Aug 23, 2008 Katie rated it did not like it
With all due respect to McCall Smith's fans, I couldn't stand this book. I'm sure there are many folks out there who loved it--it was, after all, a national bestseller--but I found it much too British-upper-class for my taste. The book, for a cheap little large-ish-print paperback mystery, is way too heady and intellectual for what, to me, looks like a "beach book". Ninety percent of the book was taken up by this woman's philosophical ramblings over why she is or isn't in love with her niece's e ...more
Anne Hawn Smith
As with most of Alexander McCall Smiths books, the plot is only half the story. This series is about Isabelle Dalhousie, an educated middle aged woman living in Edinburgh, Scotland. She reviews magazine articles for a Philosophy of Ethics journal and is a member of the Sunday Philosophy club if and when it meets. We not only get a picture of her comfortable life, but a treatise on the ethical dilemmas of everyday life.

I found the ethical delemmas to be extremely interesting. When I was in colle
Mar 16, 2017 Melora rated it it was ok
I enjoyed The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, so when a member of my library book club proposed this, another series by the same author, this time headed by a Scottish “Mma Precious Ramotswe,” I figured it was bound to be enjoyable. Ha! Isabel Dalhousie wins the trophy for the most unappealing protagonist I've encountered in quite a while, and my recent reading has included Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus and Richard III, so that's saying something. Okay, maybe she's not quite as bad as Titus and ...more
Jan 05, 2009 Abbi rated it liked it
While I love Alexander McCall Smith's Ladies Detective Agency Series, I was less into this book. He follows a similar pattern and writing style in that he focuses on the characters, with the mystery being secondary. The problem is that I found the characters mildly interesting, and the solution to the mystery somewhat boring. Also, I felt the title had little to nothing to do with the book, other than a mention of the Sunday Philosophy Club. With Mma Ramotswe, I was fascinated from the first cha ...more
Nov 04, 2012 Erin rated it did not like it
So my office has a shelf of donated books that we exchange with one another, and last week I found myself - unusually and unexpectedly - without a book in my bag, so I picked up Alexander McCall Smith’s The Sunday Philosophy Club, having heard good things about The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency and being keen to work on my “spies and detectives” category. Let this be a lesson in choosing books: do not choose out of expediency and do not choose out of the vague remembrance that someone once said t ...more
Apr 17, 2012 Chazzle rated it it was amazing
I really liked this book a lot. Had I known Alexander McCall Smith was so good, I would have read him a long time ago. Now I'm going to read him more.

The author definitely has the writing chops. Here’s a pretty amusing excerpt:

“ ‘…And then, when we arrived at his parents’ place in Cork, it was a middle-class bungalow with a Sacred Heart on the kitchen wall. And his mother did her best to freeze me out. That was awful. We had a flaming row after I came right out and asked her whether she disliked
Beth Bonini
Mar 09, 2016 Beth Bonini rated it really liked it
Shelves: contemporary, mystery
Isabel Dalhousie, the protagonist of this series, reminds me more than a bit of Emma Woodhouse: "handsome, clever and rich". She is also a bit bored, although that is more inferred by the reader than actually stated. While Emma stirs up some interest (and trouble) by match-making, Isabel involves herself in the mystery of young man's fall "from the gods" (ie, the upper reaches of the Usher Hall). Isabel accidentally glimpses the young man as he plummets to his death, and then decides that it is ...more
Dec 11, 2007 Martha rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: mystery and philosophy lovers
I love the fact that Isabelle Dalhousie is the president and cofounder of a Sunday philosophy club that can never get around to meeting because Sunday is such a bad day....I also like her categorizations of people. For example, she believes in the existence of the "profoundly unreasonable," a small subclass of people who are beyond any reasonableness of solving their own problems or their problems with the interactions of others. I also like her belief that one must have a "moral imagination" in ...more
Mar 17, 2008 Kate rated it liked it
Although Isabel, the main character, is described as being in her early 40s I kept picturing someone at least 25 years older. The prim, didactic editor of a small journal of applied philosophy gets herself mixed up in investigating the death of a young man at the symphony, and her sheltered life is mildly disrupted as she tries to figure out whether he was murdered. I found Isabel's incessant philosophizing and moral navel-gazing irritating; as most of the book is told from her point of view wit ...more
Will Byrnes
Oct 24, 2008 Will Byrnes rated it liked it
Smith has created yet another female detective. This time it is Isabel Dalhousie, an independent 40-something who leads the club of the title. She is not a professional like Mma Rowatse of the number 1 ladies detective agency series, but a gifted amateur in the manner of Miss Marple. She is a lady of independent means so never needs be concerned about having to handle the mundane to put haggis on the table. The Edinburgh setting certainly gives it a more British setting than can be found in Afri ...more
Apr 07, 2008 jill rated it did not like it
Shelves: mystery, feminist
Okay, I have always read this author's name as "Alexandra McCall Smith," I guess because his really famous series is that African ladies' detective club one, and I'm a big sexist jerk. I was telling my mom about the books I'd picked up at the Richmond Public Library book sale, and she had to correct me. Oops.
I didn't enjoy this much. The mystery wasn't very interesting. I didn't care for the subplot about the niece's love-life or the sub-subplot about the main character's lost love from twenty y
Richard Derus
Rating: 3.5* of five

The Book Report: Isabel Dalhousie is a quiet, contented woman. She's got all the money she will ever need, she lives in a comfortable home where she grew up, she has survived the ghastly experience of loving a rotten man. She edits the Review of Applied Ethics because she's a philosopher, and because she's extremely interested in the subject of ethics (see above re: rotten man), and because she doesn't need any money or want any fame.

It's a quiet life. Then Isabel sees a murd
*3.5 Stars*

I enjoyed this book. But I think I may have gone into this book expecting something it wasn't. I tried reading Smith's No. 1 Ladies Detective series and couldn't get into the first book. But, after several friends gushed about this series I decided I would give him another try. I went in expecting a typical cozy mystery, but quickly found it wasn't so much a mystery but more a book about ideas, philosophy and descriptions of Edinburgh, tea and crossword puzzles. Once I established the
Jun 16, 2009 Robin rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
Occasionally I enjoy bland food. Hey, even bland movies or television can be a nice way to relax sometimes. There is never, never an excuse for a bland book, which is exactly what this is. It's not good, it's not bad, it is absolutely mundane. I can think of no reason that something like this should have even been published. As an aside, a good friend of mine met Smith a few weeks ago in Tanzania. She described him as horrible, complaining, and completely self-absorbed. Somehow, I'm not at all s ...more
Jan 30, 2017 Kirsty rated it it was ok
Let me begin by saying that the only McCall Smith which I had read before picking up The Sunday Philosophy Club was the first in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. I hated it. I chose to download this from Netgalley as it is set in Edinburgh, a city which I am now familiar with, and because it seemed to fit snugly into my Reading Scotland Project. Whilst this book started off quite well, it soon became rather dull. I read the first tenth of it before giving up altogether; it just held ve ...more
Amanda Arra
Sep 29, 2007 Amanda Arra rated it liked it
Once you discover Isabelle Dalhousie, just like Precious Ramotswe of the Ladies No. 1 detective agency, you won't want to stop reading. Isabelle is a philospher who reviews an obscure philosophy journal and in her free time, pries into others affairs. Not action packed, but rather filled with insights into human nature and observations about culture and society.
Jan 31, 2012 Vivian rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 09, 2014 Lee rated it liked it
I have a confession: I've never read any of the No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books. I've never liked the sound of them. A lot of friends love them, however, so when I saw this book, the first in Alexander McCall Smith's Isabel Dalhousie series, on the clearance table at the library (meaning I paid 20 cents for it, not really free as I've indicated, but close enough) I thought I'd give it a go. I *liked* this book, but I can't say I *loved* this book. McCall Smith can undoubtedly write well but, ...more
Mar 03, 2014 Sue rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I seem to depend upon Alexander McCall Smith to see me through a cramped plane ride, but most recently I sought rescue from help-I’ve-been-doing-taxes-all-day. I decided to make the acquaintance of Isabel Dalhousie, who, like Precious Ramotswe of The #1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, solves mysteries while drifting easily among her friends and delivering words of wisdom. She also muses quite a bit, as befits the editor of The Review of Applied Ethics. One thing she does not do is actually attend a me ...more
Dec 26, 2007 Rebecca rated it really liked it
Shelves: mysteries, series
This is the first book in the Isabel Dalhousie series, and while fans of the Ladies' No. 1 Detective Agency series will recognize the folksy and cozy narrative style, Isabel Dalhousie is a different kind of protagonist than Mma Ramotswe.

Like the Ladies' No. 1 Detective Agency books, this story is not plot driven, but character driven. Like the Homer Kelly mysteries of Jane Langton, Alexander McCall Smith's mysteries tend to be on the lighter side (relatively gore-free), but filled with historic
Sep 01, 2012 Sandra rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gran-bretagna
Mc Call Smith mi piace. Ho letto diversi suoi libri ambientati in Africa con protagonista la signora Ramotswe. Questo libro invece inaugura una serie ambientata ad Edinburgo, con protagonista la filosofa Isabel Dalhousie, direttrice della “Rivista di etica applicata” e fondatrice del club dei filosofi dilettanti.
Questa serie di racconti, della quale ho già letto “amici, amanti, cioccolato”, mi prende molto meno delle altre storie ambientate in Africa.
Sebbene la narrazione prenda il via da un fat
Sep 16, 2007 Meg rated it really liked it
An interesting and light read about Isabel, an independently wealthy single woman who is a moral philosopher especially interested in ethics of morality. This interest colors her view of even simple gestures in ilfe which is what makes the story interesting. She is a bit of a detective, working at mysteries of peoples' actions through the eyes of her moral responsibility to get involved in them. How does this guy write so many books so fast?!
Jun 27, 2008 Laura rated it it was amazing
Wonderful read! It was one of the only "big kid books" I've read this year and I loved it. A real page turner. The author sometimes has some pompous asides but Jason tells me that he's a really cool guy in real life- so I forgive him.
Jan 01, 2008 Weinz rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: NO ONE!
This was a Cleo selection and I'm sorry Robin but it was PAINFUL. The plot was weak, the characters were bland and the "mystery" was tiresome and flimsy. The protagonist tried to beat the other characters at her snobbery. BLAH. Skip it.
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Isabel Dalhousie 12 43 Dec 23, 2013 12:21PM  
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Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the international phenomenon The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie Series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, and the 44 Scotland Street series. He is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and has served on many national and international bodies concerned with bioethics. He was born in what ...more
More about Alexander McCall Smith...

Other Books in the Series

Isabel Dalhousie (1 - 10 of 13 books)
  • Friends, Lovers, Chocolate (Isabel Dalhousie, #2)
  • The Right Attitude to Rain (Isabel Dalhousie, #3)
  • The Careful Use of Compliments (Isabel Dalhousie, #4)
  • The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday (Isabel Dalhousie, #5)
  • The Lost Art of Gratitude (Isabel Dalhousie, #6)
  • The Charming Quirks of Others (Isabel Dalhousie, #7)
  • The Forgotten Affairs Of Youth (Isabel Dalhousie, #8)
  • The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds (Isabel Dalhousie, #9)
  • The Novel Habits of Happiness (Isabel Dalhousie, #10)
  • At the Reunion Buffet (Isabel Dalhousie, #10.5) (Isabel Dalhousie Novels)

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