Little Brown - 2004 - £14.99
From the author of 'The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency' comes a new tale of moral decline and murder. Isabel Dalhousie is a well-to-do Edinburgh resident, philosopher and editor of 'The Review of Applied Ethics'. She's also an amateur sleuth.
When a young man falls to his death at a concert before Isabel's eyes, her instincts tell her that it wasn't an accident and her sense of obligation leads her to investigate the matter. Enlisting the help of her housekeeper Grace, her niece Cat and Cat's ex-boyfriend Jamie, Isabel attempts to discover who is responsible for the young man's death.
Interwoven with Isabel's views on ethical behaviour and morality, the focus is not so much on her search for the man's killer as on the disintegration of society's values. McCall Smith makes some excellent points about the absence of moral responsibility and he shows us that Isabel isn't entirely perfect as her perceived duty to solve this mystery blinds her to certain facts.
The trouble is that it's difficult to identify with Isabel. Independently wealthy, it's easy for her to take the moral high ground, when she's never really had to struggle with right and wrong. If McCall Smith had presented a heroine with more questionable ethics, this might have been a far more interesting story.