Alexander McCall Smith must write 24 hours a day. He writes about the members of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency (“Africa! Africa! Africa!”), novels about dogs, his 44 Scotland Street series, children's books, academic texts on medical law and bioethics, and he writes about Isabel Dalhousie.
Isabel is a philosopher who edits The Review of Applied Ethics, a proud mother of young Charlie, a loved and loving wife of (much younger than she) Jamie and she is a sleuth. What makes Isabel an unusual amateur detective is that, sometimes, her mysteries do not involve murder. The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds deals with art theft, and it is characteristic of many McCall Smith novels which can be classified as murderless mysteries. For those of us who like to practice our deductive reasoning without mayhem and mutilation, the detective agency's Precious Ramotswe and Ms. Dalhousie are just the ticket. An added attraction of The Philosophy Club series is that, as Isabel mulls essays for possible inclusion in the Review, she analyzes both sides of ethical questions, thus allowing the reader to do the same.
Alexander McCall Smith does not stand alone however. Susan Witting Albert has a cozy series (“cozy” meaning a mystery featuring an amateur sleuth, likable characters and little or no violence) which features Beatrix Potter as the main character. Beatrix, when she is not publishing books about recalcitrant bunnies, solves local conundrums in a gentle, mildly humorous manner.
Nancy Atherton's series featuring Aunt Dimity is also characterized by a scarcity of murder. The literary twist is that, although Aunt Dimity is no longer among the living, she helps her dear friend's daughter, Lori Shepherd, solve mysteries in England's Cotswolds.
A common theme in mysteries without manslaughter is the theft of precious things. Then, there is kidnapping. Many authors who appear regularly on the NY Times Best Sellers List have kidnapping stories Jodi Picoult's Vanishing Acts, Laura Lippman's I'd Know You Anywhere and Lisa Scottolini's Look Again are among them.
Finally, if modern literature proves too stressful, we can always return to the masters, Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. Both wrote some murderless mysteries.
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