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The Careful Use of Compliments    by Alexander McCall Smith order for
Careful Use of Compliments
by Alexander McCall Smith
Order:  USA  Can
Anchor, 2008 (2007)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Prolific author Alexander McCall Smith writes a series that truly intrigues me, starring Isabel Dalhousie. Isabel edits The Review of Applied Ethics. With a carefully worded letter, Professor Dove has staged a coup that would allow him to take over as editor, a job that Isabel very much enjoys. Professor Dove has not reckoned with Isabel's tenacity.

She has taken a lover much younger than herself and the union has produced a son, Charlie. His father, far from not acknowledging paternity, dotes on Charlie and wants Isabel to marry him. Isabel isn't too sure of this, being content with the arrangement as is, although it has caused a rift with her niece, Cat.

Isabel attends an auction and bids on a painting. Although she was not the highest bidder, she can't shake the feeling that something is wrong with this work of art. In keeping with her personality, she doggedly pursues her contention that the painting is a forgery.

The plot of this series, as with all Smith's works, is complex and intricately worked. The characters blossom under his spell. Edinburgh, the place of these stories, becomes one's own home town. But the thing that keeps drawing me back to the author's work is his way with words. He takes everyday words and gives them panache.

Reading Smith's books is like enjoying a fine glass of wine or seeing a breathless view for the first time. Or possibly looking at the Mona Lisa and realizing that it is a great work of art, not just the image that we see so many times in our lives in commercials. You often also learn something new, gleaned from the ever active brain of Alexander McCall Smith.

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