I have read the 64th book for the book challenge. It was The Comforts Of A Muddy Saturday: An Isabel Dalhousie Novel by Alexander McCall Smith.
In this Isabel Dalhousie novel, Isabel is “interfering” with several situations. She has a tendency to involve herself in situations of others. It’s her involvement with ethics, of course. That’s how she explains it.
Isabel and Jamie attend a dinner party. Isabel meets a woman, Stella Montcrief, at the party. The day after the dinner, Stella calls Isabel and asks to meet with her. Stella would like Isabel’s help with her husband, Marcus. Marcus Montcrief was a drug researcher who was suspended from his job when a patient died while taking a particular drug. It was said he should have seen that the drug might have had this effect. Marcus is depressed and feels tremendously guilty. Stella asks Isabel to help clear Marcus’s name and to see if she can cheer Marcus. Isabel goes to Marcus and talks to him. He tells her the same story. There were two patients who took high doses of the drug and had reactions and he didn’t report it because they had taken high doses. Then the patient died with a low dosage. The board said he should have reported the problems with the high doses. He feels guilty. Isabel says she will investigate. She goes to the hospital where he worked and meets with his nephew, Doctor Norrie, who says that Montcrief fudged the data on the high dosage patients. Then when Isabel is working at Cat’s deli, a lawyer from the drug company pays her a visit and tells her to leave the whole situation alone. Isabel is convinced that Norrie is the one who fudged the data or perhaps the drug company. She goes back to Montcrief and tells him what she suspects. But to her surprise, Montcrief confesses that it was he who fudged the data on the two high dosage patients. He made it look like they had taken high doses when they hadn’t. So he really is guilty. Isabel tries to get him to go back to work when his suspension is over to get back to meaningful work.
Jamie is playing in a piece by the American composer Nick Smart. Smart is in Edinburg on an exchange. He and Jamie have become friendly. Isabel is introduced to Smart but they do not seem to like one another. Isabel is a bit jealous of Jamie’s friendship with Smart. She meets Smart when she is out walking and they seem to butt heads. Then one day while she is out, there is a phone message from Smart. It is for Jamie, Isabel thinks. It says that the audition in Boston is all arranged. Isabel is horrified. She thinks that Jamie is going off to America. Jamie comes home and Isabel tells him about the phone message. He tells her that the message is actually for another friend, that Smart must have misdialed. He is not going to America for an audition.
Isabel is out walking one day and stops in a gallery. The gallery owner tells her that Jamie has purchased a painting and would she like to take it. It is a picture of a fox, Brother Fox. Isabel decides that it would spoil Jamie’s surprise to her to take it. So she waits–and waits–and waits for Jamie to give her the painting. Finally Jamie says he has a surprise for Isabel. He gives her a bouquet of flowers. She says while they are beautiful, she expected something else, a picture of a fox. He then pulls out the picture of the fox. He knew she had seen it. They admire the picture together.
Cat is going to Sri Lanka on holiday. Isabel has offered to help out in the deli. It will be for a week. Eddie cannot handle the deli alone for the entire week. So Isabel supervises except for Friday when she takes off to go to a lecture and do errands. She has given Eddie 500 pounds, because he asked for it. They had a discussion about the amount of money she had and he said he needed 500 pounds and she gave it to him. Now she wonders if she did the right thing. He has a girlfriend who is a Goth punk. He claims his father needed it for an operation. Then Eddie gives most of the money back to Isabel, and finally repays the entire amount. The girlfriend is history. Cat returns with news of an Australian boyfriend in Sri Lanka whom she will visit in about another month. It will be a long distance relationship and she will need Isabel to watch the deli again until she is able to hire an assistant manager. But then the long distant relationship falls apart, and Cat doesn’t return to Sri Lanka.
Isabel once again crosses swords with Professor Christopher Dove. In the previous book, he attempted to wrest the position of editor of The Journal of Applied Ethics from Isabel but she bought the Journal and once again became the editor. Now he has written a paper on the Trolley Problem, that old question, and would like it published. Isabel has read it and doesn’t think it is very good but decides to pass it on to two reviewers to let them decide whether or not to publish it, the same as she would do for any other submission. She receives rejections from both reviewers and Isabel debates which sort of note of rejection she should write to Dove. He had mentioned that a journal in America wanted to publish the paper, and one does not usually submit a paper to more than one journal at a time. Finally she settles on a brief note of dismissal.
The story ends with Jamie and Charlie spending a Saturday morning walking. Jamie returns quite muddy from the rain. He spends the afternoon with Isabel and Charlie in their garden eating sandwiches watching Brother Fox who comes close and sniffs Charlie’s toy.
There is nothing awfully exciting about the Isabel Dalhousie novels. But they are interesting reads. There are ethical issues involved. When does one become involved in the lives of others? To what degree? Isabel is a thoughtful person. She turns everything over in her mind and we are privy to her thoughts. McCall Smith is a master wordsmith in this marvelous series.