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4.6 out of 5 stars96
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 20 April 2007
I loaned my mum the first three books and she was convinced that they were autobiographic accounts of a real Botswanan woman of traditional build. When she finally read the cover she was shocked to find that a Scottish bloke had pulled off such a feat. The continuing development of the No. 1. Ladies' Detective Agency is always a delight. Yes, they are simple and enjoyable to read but these are intelligent books with interesting moral arguments, relevant observations on African life, including the shame of AIDS going untreated because of the cost. I know a chap who knows the author and he told me that Alexander McCall Smith can sit down and write a whole novel which comes out fully formed. I've graduated on to the Isabel Dalhousie novels and the very strange tales of German Professors of Linguistics. Never be fooled into thinking that because these books are popular that they are not a challenge. They just gently challenge our assumptions and prejudices without hurting at all.

Happiness through the aquisition of material goods is a hot topic at the moment and there are many books out on the subject. Through Mma Makutsi's and Mma Ramotswe's eyes, the subject is distilled to a beautifully pure essence.

I'd recommend starting at number 1, but even if you don't you'll still know and love the characters within minutes of opening the book.
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on 3 July 2007
This is a beautiful series of novels that remind us what it is to be human and to be a member of a closely-knit society.

Like the other books in the series, "Blue Shoes and Happiness" is brimming with a sharp wit and accurate perceptions of human nature that seem to echo Austen (with a much more simple style).

They also poignantly depict the slow demise of a traditional way of life in a similar way to Hardy, and are full of local colour and description. You'll grow to love Botswana without ever going there, and you'll particularly love the humourous characters.

It is wrong to assume that these are gripping crime novels and they should not be read as such. They are deeply philosophical and require thought to be enjoyed properly. Having said this, they are an easy read and are exceptionally enjoyable. I can recommend them to anyone, with this particular installment being the most well-developed so far.
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on 11 April 2006
How glad I was to have Mma Ramostwse and Mma Makutski back in my life!! The adventures of these lady detectives is compelling to say the least. Whenever I read an installment I am immediately transported back to Botswana and can see all the goings on. The lazy apprentices are as lazy as ever, and Mr JLB Matekoni is as gentle as ever. The book is simple and easy to follow, a great read, enhancing characters from the previous books, and showing us more of the original characters.
Loved it and so have my friends.
Happy Reading
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VINE VOICEon 14 March 2007
I have read and loved all Alexander McCall Smith's Botswana books, and so it breaks my heart to say this, but he really should stop writing them now. The beauty of Botswana and the old fashioned politeness of Mma Ramotswe, Mr J L P Matekoni and their friends is wonderful to read, but a book needs more impetus than that to carry it forward. The detective cases which spiced up the earlier books in the series have all but gone from Blue Shoes and Happiness, sidelined in favour of observations on traditional builds and cake, and the happiness of married life. It's lovely, but ultimately, it's not enough to carry a reader to the end of the book. I'm hoping that this was a blip, and that AMS will be back on form with the next book in the series. I'd love the Ladies' Detective Agency to hold on to their number one spot, but I think it might be time for them to retire.
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on 15 April 2007
Although I have not read all the books in the series I enjoy the easy style of the No 1 Lady Detective series. The books make ideal holiday or weekend reading not requiring much effort on my part but always being left with a nice positive feeling about the world.

This continues in the same vain as the rest of the books about Mma Ramotswe everyday life and investigations into small scale problems that are affecting the lives of her clients and acquaintances.

I especially enjoy the gentle reflections on life from an African perspective. When we see and read so much about Africa that associates it with war, famine and poverty it is good to read something that is so accessible and attractive to a Western audience which portrays the positive and everyday nature of African life.
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HALL OF FAMEon 3 September 2006
Life in Botswana can become immensely complicated. The problem of finding parking space for a "tiny, white van" looms. A space that doesn't have aggressive posts nearby, for favourite. The reason the van sags on the driver's side is a different issue, however important. A fiance fearful of forceful feminism must be handled diplomatically. A "To-do" list includes shopping for shoes. A food thief must be dealt with because a job is at stake. Oh, yes, and there's a cobra slumbering away under one of the desks in the office of The Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.

Precious Ramotswe's life addresses such complexities on a daily basis. Even at the worst of times, she must maintain her cool. That's not always easy during the dry season when even the sunrise, when she likes to walk in her garden, is already hot. Life can be further involved by heated exchanges. Mr J.L.B. Matekoni's apprentice, Charlie, provides one of these. Since the Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency shares space with Mr J.L.B. Matekoni's vehicle repair garage, Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, the opportunities for such discussions are many. Especially as Charlie is young and inexperienced. And a man. Other complexities are more difficult to define, such as the pervasive feeling of discomfort among the staff of the Mokolodi Game Reserve. The Reserve is run by a good man, who is sensitive to his employees' feelings. But he's white and lacks the proper knowledge to deal with the issue. Mr Polopetsi, who orbits uncertainly between the garage and the Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, has the knowledge and applies a solution. Is it the proper one?

Clearly, if you're looking for fast-paced action by he-man private investigators or cunning "wimmin" who outthink the most devious wrong-doer, this is not the book for you. However, if you'd like to follow a perceptive and perspecacious pair of personable people, Mma Ramotswe and her "assistant detective" Mma Grace Makutsi, you should give this book a serious look. Long-time fans will pick it up without a second thought. Why should the new reader be introduced to these two ladies and their seemingly mundane lives? Values, for one reason. Mma Ramotswe spends much time reflecting on her father, Obed, who is "late", and on Botswana's peaceful beauty. This has led some reviewers to mistakenly believe these books merely represent a form of upbeat rural life, eschewing the convolutions and skirmishing of city living. Nothing could be further from the truth. The pair are masters of strategy and tactics in ways any general or international corporation head would envy. And should. If nothing else, the Ladies of the Detective Agency must reconcile the contradictions in being feminists and of "traditional build". They will also warn you never to seek advice from your shoes. They have their own agenda and are unlikely to be helpful . . . [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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on 14 February 2007
I have been looking forward to reading Blue Shoes and Happiness over my half term break, having read the previous 6 books in the series.

This book did not disappoint. It again reminded me of the Botswana i lived in for three years in the early 1980s as a young teacher. I recognised many of the characters of the book in the people I knew there. The evocative descriptions of the landscape again took me in my mind back to Gaborone and Ramotswa, the traditional village I lived in.

I understand the pace of development in Botswana has continued to be very rapid since my time there and I can well understand the feeling of nostalgia in the books for a time when the pace of life was slower and the old Botswana ways were more respected.

I'm looking forward to the next book already. Please don't stop writing them Mr. McCall Smith.
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on 1 February 2007
If you like the series enough to be on book number 7, surely you can't give it anything other than 5 stars?!!

I love these little books (they're unchallenging, sweet little things that make me feel good about the world), and have just realised there's an 8th instalment on its way to look forward to....yipee!
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VINE VOICEon 11 February 2007
The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency series have been one of my guiltiest indulgencies of late. When I worked for Waterstones they were always the perfect books to recommend to old ladies unsure of what they wanted. And to be honest this was because they were inoffensive, unchallenging and evoke an era of forgotten values and better times. It was for all of these reasons that I would have hesitated to read them myself.

But, and it is a very lucky but, I did pick up the first of Mme Ramotswe's adventures, and now have just finished the seventh instalment of her developing detective practice and story. By the time you reach this book you will either be a true fan, or have tailed off somewhere between the giraffe and the beautiful girls. And if you are a fan then you will not be disappointed by the latest book.

The great thing about McCall Smith's writing is that it is of a consistently high calibre. There is no need to worry that he is going to churn out into unfortunate sequels that are pale imitations of the initial promise. He just develops the characters, the plots and continues to evoke a real sense of Botswana, the unmistakable hallmark of his writing that intoxicates. It is a delightful, whimsical indulgence.

Once again Mma Ramotswe is called upon to tackle a number of problems. Once again she is helped by the selfless Mr JLB Matekoni, and the intriguing character of Mma Makutsi is fleshed out beyond her undoubtedly impressive score of 97% in the Bostwana secretarial college exams. If you enjoy the ongoing sagas of these unlikely heroes, then you will enjoy this book.

The Guardian's digested read digested said it was much ado about nothing. But rarely has the passage of tea-sipping, light hearted mystery solving time passed so pleasantly.
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on 23 February 2007
Dreary winter? Feeling low? Seasonal angst? I prescribe the next No 1 Ladies detective Agency.

For a few short hours, this book wraps around and warms you with wonderful descriptions of life in Botswana. McCall Smith evokes a peaceful, satisfying environment in a few well-chosen words. This book, like the others, stands alone, and can be read with no previous knowledge. But, be warned - read this and the others will have to be read too. Even better accompanied by a cup of redbush tea!
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