The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds / Alexander McCall Smith
Toronto: Random House, c2012.
While reading this latest installment in the Isabel Dalhousie series (#9) I couldn't help thinking that the subtitle should read "It Looked like Spilt Milk." Hazards of doing preschool storytimes, I guess! But the idea that things are not always what they look like is a good summary of this story, as well.
Isabel is called into sleuthing mode again for a friend of a friend. Duncan Monrowe has had a painting stolen from his home, and is worried it is going to be ransomed. He just wants it back, unharmed. Isabel agrees to help, and begins her quiet style of investigation, discovering in the process that the thieves may be closer to home than expected.
Meanwhile, Isabel and Jamie move on with their lives, having words with a prickly Grace while beginning to think that Charlie is a prodigy, getting involved in Eddie's life again, and pondering the state of Isabel's philosophical journal and the perils of being an academic seeking publication.
As usual in these books, Isabel ponders the finer points of the situation -- she never takes things for granted, but carefully teases them apart to try to get a clear, understandable view of a situation. This isn't always possible, and one thing I very much appreciated in this particular book was the realistic nature of the theft: there isn't always a clear villain, and suspicions might not lead to proof.
Isabel is an odd character, interesting while not always relatable. She is a person who lives in her mind, and thus has a fairly small circle. Sometimes her small orbit starts to feel a bit enclosing, but McCall Smith adds in enough side characters and moments of natural grace to carry the story forward, providing a window to a wider world. I enjoy visiting her world and this volume was no exception to that.
PS - the day I received my copy, I just happened to be colour coordinated with this lovely sky blue cover! I was thrilled to open the envelope and see what awaited :)