A friend and I were talking about “light reading” the other day — when we want something escapist, we both head for a mystery. But while she’s been enjoying the Stieg Larsson series, I can’t get my teeth into them. Perhaps it’s my overactive imagination, but anything too gory or violent will literally give me nightmares.

I tend to like a “gentler” mystery, where the emphasis is on character and not on gruesome details. That pegs me pretty neatly as Alexander McCall Smith’s target audience, and I have read lots of his books — my favorites are the Isabel Dalhousie / Sunday Philosophy Club series, and I’ve also enjoyed the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (I’m a bit behind the curve with these, though).

Currently, I’m catching up on another series that I enjoy — the Maisie Dobbs series, by Jacqueline Winspear. Each one is like a jeweled time-capsule — a perfect portrait not only of an interesting woman, but also of the time between World Wars I and II, when so much was changing in the world. They are a joy to read and I highly recommend them. (If you prefer audio books, all of the titles have been recorded. The narration by Orlagh Cassidy is superb.)