A Distant View of Everything by Alexander McCall Smith

An apt title for this 12th installment of the Scotland based, Isabel Dalhousie series  There are many McCall Smith fans who shy away from these books.  This is understandable.  Isabel is not warm like Precious Ramotswe nor is she quirky like the denizens of 44 Scotland Street.  Isabel is a Philosopher, she is editor-in-chief (and owner) of the Review of Applied Ethics.  She is a good person, a moral person, even a generous person, but she is reserved and absurdly lucky in life (independently wealthy and cohabiting with a gorgeous, younger, musician who is head over heels for her).  In this book, another character tells her she is “muted” and she is surprised and a little hurt, but it is absolutely true!

The novel does have a thin layer of plot – Isabel is asked to look into the moral character of a man who has reputedly extracted money from wealthy women through nefarious means – but it is even more thin than usual. However, Isabel’s main activity is musing.  In fact, “Isabelle Muses” would be an apt subtitle for the series. She muses when she should be paying attention to people, her work, or the world around her.  I love her musings – they are far reaching, exploratory, and center around the kinds of things I like to think about myself.  A sampling of topics from this volume: population growth, enlightened capitalism, poetry, Churchill’s growl, psychopaths vs sociopaths, selfies, neuroscience, the generous obfuscation of titles, and the letters column of The Scotsman which is the “spiritual home of the combative and the contrary”. So while I don’t open these books in anticipation of spending time with a close personal friend, I do anticipate meeting with a very interesting conversationalist and this is why I remain a fan of this series.

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