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The Careful Use of Com...
Alexander McCall Smith
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The Careful Use of Compliments (Isabel Dalhousie #4)

3.78  ·  Rating Details  ·  6,493 Ratings  ·  507 Reviews
Full-time philosopher and occasional sleuth Isabel Dalhousie, now the mother of a baby boy, is getting used to the new rhythms of her life, caring for little Charlie with the sometimes unsettling aid of her forthright housekeeper, Grace, having dinners with Charlie’s father, Jamie, and tending as usual to submissions to the Review of Applied Ethics. But Isabel is deeply un ...more
Audio CD, 7 pages
Published January 1st 2007 by Recorded Books
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Nandakishore Varma
This book is the fourth of a series, and as usual with series, follows about a character or a set of characters. Isabel Dalhousie is the protagonist of this one. She is very interesting: philosopher, editor of The Review of Applied Ethics, unmarried mother of a boy whose father is her niece Cat's ex-boyfriend and fourteen years her junior. Isabel keeps on a running monologue in her head which the reader is privy to: this is the main charm of the novel.

This novel, though standalone, presumably p
Richard Derus
Rating: 3.5* of five

The Book Report: Isabel Dalhousie, wealthy old-Edinburgh-family woman, art collector, philosopher, editrix of The Journal of Applied Ethics, lover of a beautiful younger musician, single mother.


My Review: This is the fourth Isabel Dalhousie novel, as I am pleased to note Pantheon is now marketing them, not mysteries. Now I wonder why my library still keeps them in the mysteries...?

It's a lovely, warm way to spend a frustrating day's end, reading a well-written bo
Oct 09, 2008 Nancy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Every time I read one of Alexander McCall Smith's books (particularly the Scottish ones, though I love the Precious Ramotswe books too) I am stunned. He presents such a gentle, humane view of human relationships, without being naive or saccharine. I also can't get over how well he writes from a woman's perspective!

I relate everything I read to my own experience, which is perhaps a bad quality, but makes every book personal to me. So of course to find Isabel with a 3 month old baby in this book,
Jo Mclennan
Apr 22, 2008 Jo Mclennan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Isabel Dalhousie books just keep getting better! I really enjoyed this one and the last one (The Right Attitude to Rain). Although NOT detective fiction as they are so often classified, they are easy reads with interesting philosophical questions presented in a way even non-philosophers like me can understand.
Sep 24, 2007 Andrea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those looking for a break
This, the Isabel Dalhousie series, is one of two series that I keep tabs on, and both have new books out this fall. This series is largely character driven, has a great sense of geographic place, and is just an easy, entertaining read. Plus, I'll always give points for a book whose main character is a philosopher. I do think this particular book is the weakest of the 4 Dalhousie books, but that's alright. Still quite enjoyable.

I do confess that I almost didn't list this on my Goodreads account -
Mar 10, 2016 Lorena rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller-mystery
I gave it five stars because it really made me feel like I am on holidays and that this is how holidays should be enjoyed. It was a warm feeling and I think I could read this book again during Christmas, with a cup of tea or hot chocolate beside.

The main character, Isabel, was a charming lady and I grew a particular fondness on her. Though sometimes she appeared confused, or just wanted to play that 'ping-pong' game of thoughts, cause anyway she already had an aim in her mind. She sometimes mad
Sep 18, 2010 Goldenwattle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Comment after reading first chapter:
I had read the first two books in this series, but not the third. I did enjoy them, but my comments included, "It was an easy, light read. Nothing much happens.". Because of that when this book - the forth in the series - appeared on the table at a BookCrossing Meet I did not think it would matter that I had not read the third story. THEN, in the first few pages I read that Isabel has had a baby. old is she exactly? I thought she was late middle ag
I always say these Alexander McCall Smith books are review-proof, especially if you are on the 4th book of a series, as is the case with The Careful Use of Compliments. I had read the 3rd book earlier this year and had not intended to pick up this one quite yet, but I had just come off such a mentally taxing read that I really need the light and fluff of McCall Smith to do what I call a cleanse of my literary palette. Normally, I would have switched off with the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency ser ...more
Nancy (NE)
Nov 13, 2013 Nancy (NE) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: series
I LOVE Alexander McCall Smith. His books are just plain delightful. They are my comfort zone. Like-able characters, fun plots. While his writing does make me think, he has a light handed touch at ethical dilemas and current events. I love the way the main characters often have a rambling train of thought that allows the author to weave around lots of life's little issues without hitting you over the head with it. Fleeting references to a world view. The books are like those old "Little House" ty ...more
May 13, 2009 Bruce rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I ran out of reading material twenty-four hours before the end of a recent trip and needed something to fill the flight home, so I picked this book up expecting nothing special; I found it, however, to be most enjoyable. Smith’s protagonist, Isabel Dalhousie, is a philosopher and the editor of the Review of Applied Ethics in Edinburgh, Scotland. The story is a rather meandering one, plot being a bit secondary and the “mystery” being a little unessential, but Smith’s characterizations are strong ...more
May 20, 2012 Mary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book very much, but then I always like McCall Smith. Isabel Dalhousie might be my favorite character that he's created, largely because she reminds me of me. Everything for her is fodder for thinking, and she lives in a complicated moral universe where every decision is weighed against Dalhousie's notion of right and wrong/should or shouldn't do.

But it's not as dry as all that sounds. She loves a niece who hardly seems worth the bother, for the most part, and she loves a man who'
Beth Bonini
Mar 28, 2016 Beth Bonini rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It would have been interesting to see Isabel Dalhousie during pregnancy, but the author chose to make a rather big jump between books: so the third Dalhousie (The Right Attitude to Rain) ends with Isabel telling Jamie that she is pregnant, and this next one opens with Isabel having a 3 month old baby named Charlie. Perhaps the author felt uncomfortable getting into the nitty-gritty of pregnancy and the grimier aspects of early motherhood, but the storyline glides over all of this very smoothly. ...more
Jan 25, 2009 Merry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have rarely encountered a character as pensive as Isabel Dalhousie. She deliberates about every aspect of life, and strives to make the highest moral decision. She is a great role model for anyone, and I wish she were my best friend.
Jan 11, 2009 Anne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love these little bloodshed or gunshots. Fun to read Isabel's thought process. Makes philosophy interesting and real.
Jan 22, 2009 Priscilla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another fun AMS book. I love Isabel . . . she can't help herself from overthinking everything. I really resonate with her!
Feb 03, 2010 Sophiene rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary
I just love this series, it's like coming home and sitting in your favorite chair with a nice cup of tea.
So the thing about these Isabel Dalhousie "mysteries" is that nothing very much ever happens in them. We are presented with a situation - one can't really call it a mystery or even a problem. Something is occurring or has occurred and Isabel thinks about it. Isabel, you see, is a philosopher and she edits a journal of philosophy, and everything in her life becomes a philosophical conundrum. We are privy to her internal processes as she works out the conundrum and that is the body of each book in ...more
Oct 17, 2009 Jon rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
My wife talked me into reading this one, even though I'd pretty much given up on this series. Many people find Isabel Dalhousie to be charming--I find her annoying. She allegedly has a PhD in philosophy, and she thinks incessantly about almost everything. She says she likes to let her mind wander, because that's how it arrives at interesting places. I don't find her getting anyplace interesting very often. Her musings remind me of the way your mind drifts while driving on a long trip. At the end ...more
Dec 16, 2009 Tim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another in McCall Smith's Isabel Dalhousie/Edinburgh series, the events in this story come closer to the sort that detective novels typically address: art forgery and unexplained death. In the end, Isabel brings matters to a good conclusion, though as she admits, not without a full compliment of accident, misunderstanding, and even error.

Smith's deeply thoughtful relationships between - and with - his characters - evident in all his writing - were captured for me in one particularly fascinating
Mar 16, 2010 Kay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: good
I just finished this book and started the next one, the comforts of a muddy Saturday. I love most of Alexander McCall Smith' book and I love Isabel Dalhousie. For me they are not detective novels. They are stories about good people who lead ordinary lives.
This book did not disappoint me. Isabel is still her curious and pensive self. Isabel always raises questions that stay with me for a while. She makes me think about things I haven't thought about or sometimes that I have thought about but coul
Oct 16, 2008 MJ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alexander McCall Smith has written several series of light novels, among them the series started by the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, set in Africa, which was delightful.

This book is the 4th in his 'Scottish' series starring a philosopher named Isabel Dalhousie who can't help interfering in other people's affairs in a rather quiet way. They are harmless and diverting books, and Smith has an exquisite writing style and a charm that never fails to make me smile. I highly recommend these for a qui
Jul 11, 2015 Debi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm getting hooked...
May 11, 2010 Anna rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm tired of Cat. I really am. Such a spoiled brat. I always find Isabel fun although I'm a little frustrated with how "beautiful" she finds Jamie - enough already - she's supposed to be a woman of substance. My favourite sub-plot of this book was the whole George Orwell writing 1984 on Jura in a remote house - that really saved the book for me. Otherwise, I thought it was pretty ordinary and a weaker than usual Isabel Dalhousie book. I'd like to give this book two and a half stars but since thi ...more
Mar 23, 2016 Ingrid rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
this my first encounter with Isabel Dalhousie and I am sorry to say - we did not become great friends. Since the plot, or "mystery", of this story is rather tepid and meh, there is not much action, so the book becomes heavily reliant on the characters, chiefly Isabel. (I struggled with completing this book, all the while hoping for some development in the plot or at least something relatable, welll...) Isabel has the makings of a lovely main character and is supposedly the “aspirational figure" ...more
Feb 28, 2016 Robin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The fourth book in the Isabel Dalhousie series finds the 40-something Edinburgh-based philosopher bringing up a bonnie baby named Charlie, struggling to patch up her relationship with niece Cat after getting romantically involved with Cat's ex-boyfriend Jamie, responding to a palace coup on the editorial board of the Journal of Applied Ethics, and solving a mystery involving something a bit off about some art works by a deceased Scottish painter that recently went on sale.

More than some of the
Ell Eastwood
A bit disappointed in this book, because I was kinda looking forward to seeing Isabel dealing with being pregnant, seeing how her relationship with Jamie develops and seeing Cat react to it ... and then we just skip about a year ahead, the baby is born, they're happily dating and Cat is fucking pissed. I mean what!? Don't make someone pregnant and then ignore all the consequences: since baby Charlie spends most of his time with Grace, we see pretty much no change in Isabel's life at all.

I mean,
Susan Brown
Feb 28, 2014 Susan Brown rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Susan by: Have read previous novels

Yet another gentle read from Alexander McCall Smith. Our heroine, Isobel Dalhousie is still over thinking every situation and every decision but this just makes for excellent reading in my opinion. This is an extremely thought provoking book and I enjoyed it immensely. Once again the characters are very well developed and I feel I am getting to know them even more as each novel in the series is read - they are becoming a part of my life. I cannot stress enough that these stories are not for peop
Jan 29, 2016 Bewitched rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Feb 01, 2016 Casey rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Carinya Kappler
Jan 09, 2015 Carinya Kappler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Book Review
This book "The Careful Use of Compliments" by Alexander McCall Smith is an engaging romp in the world of ethics, revenge, forgiveness, and honesty. The main character Isabel Dalhousie is a wealthy young woman living in Edinburgh, Scotland. She is the editor of an obscure journal, "Review of Applied Ethics" largely read by academics and featuring various tomes of rhetoric authored by doctorate students and other desperate individuals. All articles are selected for print by the esteemed
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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 11 books)
  • The Sunday Philosophy Club (Isabel Dalhousie, #1)
  • Friends, Lovers, Chocolate (Isabel Dalhousie, #2)
  • The Right Attitude to Rain (Isabel Dalhousie, #3)
  • 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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“Do not act meanly, do not be unkind, because the time for setting things right may pass before your heart changes course.
Isabel Dalhousie”
“...the thought crossed her mind that a bed was really a very strange thing-a human nest, really, where our human fragility made its nightly demands for comfort and cosseting” 9 likes
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