By Alexander McCall Smith
Pantheon, $24.95, 261 pages

Isabel Dalhousie is happy – she is stable in her career as a philosopher/editor of her journal, has a beautiful son and devoted fiancé. She is also pleased to have a new friend in the form of Jane, a visiting philosopher from Australia. Jane isn’t only visiting to study, though, she was adopted at birth and is looking for her father. Isabel agrees to help and along the way learns lessons about herself and those around her.

The Forgotten Affairs of Youth is the latest installment in the Isabel Dalhousie series by author Alexander McCall Smith. The idea of a philosopher who is focused on moral obligation helping to solve mysteries is a quaint one. The struggle with this book is the main character herself, as she comes off as condescending, superior and judgmental in her interactions with others in the book. The family mystery that Isabel investigates is interesting enough but the side plot with her cousin Cat gets tiresome after a while (as does Isabel herself). On the whole, the book feels bland and lifeless and generally forgettable.

Reviewed by Barbara Cothern