The quiet side of passion
—McCall Smith, Alexander, 1948- author.
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"As the mother of two small children, Isabel finds herself at the nursery school gate enlarging her circle of friends to include other parents. There she meets Patricia, a musician living in Edinburgh, the mother of a small classmate called Basil Phelps. Patricia takes to Isabel and tries to bring Isabel into her social circle. Isabel is vaguely disquieted by this--there is something about Patricia that she does not quite like, but, with her usual attention to moral obligation, she does her best to be civil and supportive--after all, Patricia is a single mother struggling to get by. Or so one might think; in fact, Patricia seems to live in comfort in a fairly expensive part of town. Isabel hears from her husband, Jamie, that this child is allegedly the unacknowledged son of a well-known Edinburgh organist, Basil Phelps (sr.). Isabel and Jamie are invited to a weekend house-party in a small border town south of Edinburgh. Quite by chance, she happens to see Patricia going into an antique shop there with a man. Isabel does not think much more about that, but shortly afterwards she sees them coming out and she gets a better view of the man's face. He has a strikingly freckled complexion--as does the small boy, Basil (jr.). The organist--the alleged father--has a very different complexion. Jamie discourages Isabel from pursuing the matter, but her sense of justice is pricked, and she decides to look into the matter further. Isabel intervenes in the lives of Patricia and the purported father and comes close to overstepping her own boundaries, as she uncovers a scheme of fake antiquities and illicit trafficking in cultural objects. And she learns about her own misconceptions when her niece strikes up a relationship with a tattoo artist. Isabel is not in favour of tattoos, or of those who execute them, but her assumptions are misguided, and she discovers that the tattoo artist has very fine qualities. (They become friendly, and he even offers to give her a free tattoo--a passage from Plato would do nicely, he says.) In this twelfth full-length installment of Isabel's story, McCall Smith gives his readers what we want--time inside the mind of one of fiction's most richly developed women detectives, a visit to Edinburgh, and a twisting and tangled mystery about what responsibility humans owe to each other."-- Provided by publisher.

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