For philosophically minded Isabel, getting through life with a clear conscience requires careful thought. And with the arrival of baby Charlie, not to mention a passionate relationship with his father Jamie, fourteen years her junior, Isabel enters deeper and rougher waters.
Motherhood is not the only challenge she faces. Even as she negotiates a truce with her furious niece Cat, and struggles for authority over her son with her formidable housekeeper Grace, Isabel finds herself drawn into the story of a painter’s mysterious death off the Isle of Jura.
Perhaps most seriously of all, Isabel’s professional existence and that of her beloved Review of Applied Ethics come under attack from the Machiavellian and suspiciously handsome Professor Dove. She must fight to preserve her journal, all the while contending with the turmoil of her private life. Will this be more than she can handle?
Of course a delicatessen in Edinburgh was not the most obvious place to entertain such thoughts on the nature of good and evil, but Isabel was a philosopher and knew full well that philosophical speculations came upon one in the strangest places and at the strangest times. The delicatessen was owned by her niece, Cat, and in addition to selling the usual things that such shops sold—the sun-dried tomatoes and mozzarella cheese, the fresh anchovy fillets and the small bars of Austrian marzipan—this delicatessen served coffee at the three or four small marble-topped tables that Cat had found on a trip to the Upper Loire valley and carted back to Scotland in a hired self-drive van.
Isabel was sitting at one of these tables, a freshly made cappuccino before her, a copy of that morning’s Scotsman newspaper open at the crossword page. Her coffee had been made by Cat’s assistant, Eddie, a shy young man to whom something terrible and unexplained had happened some time ago and who was still awkward in his dealings with Isabel, and with others. Eddie had gained in confidence recently, especially since he had taken up with a young Australian woman who had taken a job for a few months in the delicatessen, but he still blushed unexpectedly and would end a conversation with a murmur and a turning away of the head.
“You’re by yourself,” said Eddie, as he brought Isabel’s coffee to her table. “Where’s the ... ” He trailed off.
Isabel smiled at him encouragingly. “The baby? He’s called Charlie, by the way.”
Eddie nodded, glancing in the direction of Cat’s office at the back of the delicatessen. “Yes, of course, Charlie. How old is he now?”
“Three months. More or less exactly.”
Eddie absorbed this information. “So he can’t say anything yet?”
Isabel began to smile, but stopped herself; Eddie could be easily discouraged. “They don’t say anything until they’re quite a bit older, Eddie. A year or so. Then they never stop. He gurgles, though. A strange sound that means I’m perfectly happy with the world. Or that’s the way I understand it.”
“I’d like to see him some time,” said Eddie vaguely. “But I think that ... ” He left the sentence unfinished, yet Isabel knew what he meant.
“Yes,” she said, glancing in the direction of Cat’s door. “Well, that is a bit complicated, as you probably know.”
Eddie moved away. A customer had entered the shop and was peering at the counter display of antipasti; he needed to return to his duties.