Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review.
The Novel Habits of Happiness is the 10th book in the Isabel Dalhousie series (also known as the Sunday Philosopher’s Club series). I’ve only read the first book, The Sunday Philosopher’s Club. I enjoyed it but I didn’t feel the same affinity for it that I do for the 44 Scotland Street series. Still, I was looking forward to a return visit to Edinburgh (via book obviously).
Isabel Dalhousie is an amateur sleuth in Edinburgh. By day she runs a philosophy magazine and the rest of the time she can’t say no to helping those that have need of her services. This time Isabel’s friend asks for help on behalf her new neighbour, a woman recently split up with her husband. The woman’s six year old son has recently started saying that he has lived a past life, that he was actually the son of a family called Campbell and that he lived in this house near a lighthouse. The woman is unsettled by this and asks Isabel to help sort out the problem.
This is probably one of those times where the bare bones description of the book does it a disservice. Reading it thus it probably sounds a) far fetched and b) not like your cup of tea at all. But the way McCall Smith writes makes all the difference. I get the feeling that in Isabel Dalhousie we get the closest to what her creator is like in real life. I suspect that McCall Smith himself feels and thinks very much like Isabel – she has a tendency to let one thing lead her mind to wander into all corners of thought.
I think I liked this one better than the original because Isabel felt more like a real person. In the intervening 8 books, she has been married and had a child. Her life has taken on more every day occurrences and that makes her feel more like a real person. Isabel’s father left her enough money to live on and she has a beautiful house (also left to her) and in that first book there wasn’t that much about her that I could relate to. This time I enjoyed the time I spent with her so much.
After I finished The Sunday Philosopher’s Club I thought that maybe I would just stick with the 44 Scotland Street series. But after having read The Novel Habits of Happiness, I want to go back and read the rest of the books to see what all I missed.