The second of the Isabel Dalhousie mysteries by Alexander McCall Smith, Friends, Lovers, Chocolate is, loosely, about a man with a transplanted heart who believes that he’s having visions related to the death of his donor.
I say loosely because this is a meandering novel that is more about what people make of coincidence than it is about solving a mystery, though the mystery is solved in a way that is consistent with the main character’s rational approach to life.
Isabel Dalhousie is an independently weatlhy philosopher who edits an academic journal on applied ethics. She is a thinker and the novel is largely taken up with her thoughts on morality, history, and all the other questions that catch her fancy by chance as she wanders through her daily life. She is a decent woman, attractive enough, conscious of her age (early forties), intelligent, not immune to jealousy or unrequited love, but attempts to act well despite the power of those emotions. She is an interesting protagonist.
I found the novel pleasant. I kept expecting a turn of events that would bring danger and menace to the story, but though there were hints it was possible, that never happened. Instead the story strolled through Isabel’s life, her thoughts, her struggle with her passions, not a great struggle but a quiet one.
It was a good read for a couple of hot days when I wanted to do very little but lie around and read. There were about half a dozen lines in the book that were beautiful–enough to show that Smith could write much better if he wished, though probably not as quickly. It’s a good enough book. It isn’t exquisite, it didn’t keep me on the edge of my seat. The structure is loose. I wouldn’t rush out to get the next in the series. But it was just right for the heat and it would be good for the flu. I’m sure I’ll visit with Isabel another time.