The Isabel Dalhousie books by Alexander McCall Smith, are my go-to when I need a proper cozy. The serene life of an independently wealthy, cultured Scottish philosopher and her internal musings as she attempts to lead a philosophically moral life (or justify her nosiness) is perfect for when the world seems just a bit too cruel, unforgiving, hostile, garish and uncivilized, as it certainly did last week.
Given that, and the fact that this particular installment resolves a fairly major character plot arc in the way I was hoping, this should've been one of my favorite installments.
And yet, it was my least favorite and left me feeling vaguely frustrated and unsatisfied.
Part of the reason, I suppose, is that Alexander McCall Smith was still trying to cram a mystery into a world in which the characters' lives have simply transcended that genre (as has also happened, for example, with Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series). I don't mind reading future installments as novels, but the purported mystery not only wasn't but didn't make any real type of appearance until the last third of the book! Something about that just feels lazy to me.
Secondly, a subplot that was introduced as a rather major story arc was abandoned entirely and then wrapped up abruptly in a rather unlikely way towards the end of book in a rather shabby way.
Finally,the big twist ending surprise was such a predictable letdown.
[SPOILER FOLLOWS -- Out of sheer necessity, I assure you. I hate reveiws that give spoilers and as a general rule never do, but there is no other way to further explain my feelings about this book.]
<spoiler> Here you have Isabel Dalhousie, an independent, intelligent 42-year-old woman with a 24-year-old, handsome, "gentle" man who is in love with her. She finds the strength and courage to pursue him and get her man, finding love again. Fantastic! How empowering and refreshing to see a character that isn't sexually dead after thirty!
And what does McCall Smith do? He impregnates her. Because of course the only thing "missing" from her life has to be a baby, right? Some of my bitterness here is personal, I freely admit that. I'm happily childfree at 35 and one of the reasons I loved Isabel was that it was awesome to have a heroine whose life didn't revolve around a husband and children and the pursuit thereof.
I'm sure being older and having a child before Cat, her younger niece, will present complications. And a baby is not going to fit well into Isabel's well-ordered, quiet and serene life, surely. But quite frankly, my real life is already surrounded by and inundated with mothers, so it's with no little disappointment I find Isabel is now going to be All About Being A Mom All The Time. </spoiler>
So, I suppose I'm being a curmudgeon about a character's evolution. But it honestly didn't feel natural for either character and feels a bit like a calculated demographics grab, quite frankly. I'll read the next installment to see where it goes, but I have to be honest: I won't be surprised if it's time for Isabel and I to, unfortunately, part ways.