In this ninth inquiry for Edinburgh-based philosopher Isabel Dalhousie (following The Forgotten Affairs of Youth) from the creator of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Isabel is having afternoon coffee at Cat's delicatessen when her friend tells her about the distress of Duncan Munrowe. Thieves have stolen a very valuable painting from his collection—a masterwork by French artist Nicolas Poussin that had been earmarked for donation to the Scottish National Gallery—and have demanded a ransom. Isabel agrees to look into the matter, and discovers that the thieves may be closer to the owner than he ever would have expected, in a book full of Alexander McCall Smith's charming wit and quirky characters.
"The art theft itself, which expands into a consideration of famous art heists and forgeries, gives readers fascinating glimpses into a mostly hidden crime industry. McCall Smith spikes his heroine's seemingly cloistered world with enough close encounters with tragedy—a neighbor stabbed to death by someone he brought home, for example—to make both Isabel and the reader aware of the fragility of good fortune. Utterly satisfying for its art-theft puzzle, characterization, and Edinburgh setting."—Booklist (starred review)