x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

McCall Smith's protagonist returns to solve theft of a valuable painting

Isabel Dalhousie is drawn into a thoroughly middle-class mystery in The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds.

The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds
The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds

The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds
Alexander McCall Smith
Little, Brown

Settling down with an Alexander McCall Smith novel is to reacquaint oneself with the concerns of Scotland's chattering classes - from pushy mothers to petty social slights - and to willfully give in to such small bothers.

The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds has an almost claustrophobic feel about it. Even if it does shift effortlessly from coffee house to concert hall, McCall Smith and Isabel Dalhousie, his ever-curious protagonist returning here for a ninth instalment in this popular series, rarely wander far from the same Edinburgh streets the author has so exquisitely drawn in many of his previous works.

Dalhousie is drawn into a thoroughly middle-class mystery after a valuable work by the French artist Nicolas Poussin is stolen from the country pile of Duncan Munrowe, a fully paid-up member of the landed gentry.

A few suspects hove into view, all of whom have legitimate reasons to steal the painting and hold Munrowe to ransom over it, before Dalhousie performs the neat trick of simultaneously tying up all the loose ends while leaving one or two threads dangling.