The fifth book in the Isabel Dalhousie / Sunday Philosophy Club series
A new mother and a philosophical specialist, Isabel would really rather not be a sleuth. But when a chance conversation at a dinner party draws her into the case of a doctor whose career has been ruined, she cannot ignore what might be a miscarriage of justice. For Isabel ethics are not theoretical at all, but an everyday matter of life and death.
As she attempts to unravel the truth behind Dr Thompson’s disgrace, Isabel is also required to deal with challenges in her own life. There is her newborn Charlie; Cat’s deli to look after; and a mysterious and unlikeable composer who has latched on to Jamie, making Isabel fear for the future of her new family.
It happened when she was walking with Jamie across the Meadows, the large, tree-lined park that divides South Edinburgh from the Old Town. Jamie was her . . . What was he? Her lover – her younger lover; her boyfriend; the father of her child. She was reluctant to use the word partner because it has associations of impermanence and business arrangements. Jamie was most definitely not a business arrangement; he was her north, her south, to quote Auden, whom she had recently decided she would quote less frequently. But even in the making of that resolution, she had found a line from Auden that seemed to express it all, and had given up on that ambition. And why, she asked herself, should one not quote those who saw the world more clearly than one did oneself?
Her north, her south; well, now they were walking north, on one of those prolonged Scottish summer evenings when it never really gets dark, and when one might forget just how far from south one really is. The fine weather had brought people out on to the grass: a group of young men, bare-chested in the unaccustomed warmth, were playing a game of football, discarded tee-shirts serving as the goal markers; a man was throwing a stick for a tireless border collie to fetch; a young couple lay stretched out, the girl’s head resting on the stomach of the bearded youth who was looking away, at something in the sky that only he could see. The air was heavy, and although it would soon be eight o’clock, there was still a good deal of sunlight about – soft, slanting sunlight, with the quality that goes with light that has been about for the whole day and is now comfortable, used.
The coincidence was that Jamie should suddenly broach the subject of what it must be like to feel thoroughly ashamed of oneself. Later on Isabel asked herself why he had suddenly decided to talk about that. Had he seen something on the Meadows to trigger such a line of thought? Strange things were no doubt done in parks by shameless people, but hardly in the early evening, in full view of passers-by, on an evening such as this. Had he seen some shameless piece of exhibitionism? She had read recently of a Catholic priest who went jogging in the nude, and explained that he did so on the grounds that he sweated profusely when he took exercise. Indeed, for such a person it might be more convenient not to be clad, but this was not Sparta, where athletes disported naked in the palaestra; this was Scotland, where it was simply too cold to do as in Sparta, no matter how classically minded one might be.
Whatever it was that prompted Jamie, he suddenly remarked: ‘What would it be like not to be able to go out in case people recognised you? What if you had done something so . . . so appalling that you couldn’t face people?’
Isabel glanced at him. ‘You haven’t, have you?’
He smiled. ‘Not yet.’