Isabel Dalhousie is the editor of a journal called the Review of Applied Ethics. Her training as a philosopher allows her to ponder professional issues as well as everyday dilemmas. For example, she discusses a paper she has received with her housekeeper: “ ‘I believe he’s serious,’ she said, passing the letter to Grace. ‘An offer of a paper on the ethics of the buffet bar.’” (pg 203) This leads to an interesting discussion about whether it is alright to raid your hotel breakfast bar for later on.
Friends, Lovers, Chocolate is billed as a mystery, but most of the action takes place in Isabel’s head. That’s okay. It is an interesting mystery and a calm, relaxing read. Isabel is quite ethical and spends a lot of time debating what will be her next step. Here she is trying to decide whether to be involved in a rather strange instance. “ ‘But you may recall that I said something about obligation earlier on. One of the consequences of being a philosopher is that you get involved. You ask yourself whether you need to do something and so often the answer comes up yes, you do.’ ” (pg 153) She is speaking to a man who has had a heart transplant and believes he is seeing something that the former owner of the heart saw.
This series is set in Scotland and the city of Edinburgh plays a significant role. Alexander McCall Smith is also the author of the very popular series beginning with the book The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. I recommend Friends, Lovers, Chocolate if you are looking for an interesting, thoughtful read with just a hint of a mystery.