Friday, December 28, 2012

Audiobook Review: The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds by Alexander McCall Smith

The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds by Alexander McCall Smith (8 hours, 12 mins; narrated by Davina Porter) is book 9 in the author's Isabel Dalhousie series. When an art collector Duncan Monrowe discovers a painting is missing from his collection, Isabel is asked to help him solve the mystery of who stole the painting. Isabel is a philosopher and edits a journal on the topic but she is also an amateur detective who solves these mysteries in her hometown of Edinburgh. Since Duncan suspects his own son may be involved in the theft of the Poussin painting, Isabel is the perfect sleuth to assist in solving the mystery - she uses keen observational skills and her understanding of the human condition to solve her mysteries.

Duncan Monrowe planned to donate the Poussin to the Scottish National Gallery and is dismayed when it goes missing from his estate outside Edinburgh. Once Isabel gets involved, she soon learns that Duncan has a troubled relationship with his son and suspects there could be some connection to between their fractious relationship and the disappearance of the valuable painting. Duncan has inherited his estate from family and his son resents the titled class system and feels the estate should be distributed to those with fewer privileges. This irks his father as he is very invested in the family estate and wants his son to want to carry it on for the family. Isabel, after many discussions with both Duncan's son and daughter, however, begins to suspect the son may not be the only family member about which Duncan should be wary. Duncan's daughter also has motive to steal the painting and is quick to implicate her brother.

My Thoughts
This is my first novel by Alexander McCall Smith and I thoroughly enjoyed it - the mystery was by no means complex and in some ways is really a subplot to the human interest stories of those involved in the mystery and, of course, the detective Isabel. In addition to trying to solve the mystery of the Poussin painting, Isabel is embroiled in a power struggle with her young son's nanny and worries about the older woman's defiance of Isabel's wishes for her son. Isabel is immensely likeable - she is empathetic and that gives her an insight into those involved in these mysteries which allows her to see things more traditional detectives might overlook. I will definitely read more of the Isabel Dalhousie series although this book stands on its own - I didn't feel as if there were elements I was missing from earlier installments.

Perhaps my favorite part of this audiobook, however, was the narrator - Davina Porter.  This is a new narrator for me and I am glad to have discovered her.  Her Scottish accent was melodic and each sentence was spoken with such expression that is was like listening to a play rather than a book narration. My grandmother was Scottish and I felt as I was listening to her speak while listening to this audiobook.  All in all a success -  a new author, a new series and a new narrator - each with many more installments for me to enjoy!


  1. I've only read McCall Smith's African mysteries. This must be a new series and does sound interesting!

  2. New author, new series, new narrator - win, win win!! The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency is wonderful on audio, too. Everyone loves Davina Porter.

  3. I've only read The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books and they're delightful - I'm glad to see this series is as well.

  4. I'm so behind in this series so I can't really read your review yet because I'm not sure what's going to happen with Jamie, but I listen to all the Alexander McCall Smith series on audio and they are all great that way!