Occasionally I can't sleep because I lie in bed worrying. This always bemuses my husband, who usually offers well intentioned but essentially useless 2am advice like "think nice thoughts". Better advice would be to pick up one of the books in the "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" series. They are "warm fuzzy" reading, set in a dreamlike Botswana where the sun always shines, people have plenty of time to talk to one another and nothing gets in the way of a good cup of tea.
This is the 10th book in this delightful series. If you are new to it, count yourself lucky at the treats that you have in store, but be aware that it is best to read the books in order. (Apparently Alexander McCall Smith is contracted to write 14, so there will be more). The title refers to Mma Ramotswe, with her love of tea and her pride in her large build which some may call fat, but which she prefers to refer to as "traditionally built". While Mma Ramotswe is the central heroine, McCall Smith is now juggling a large and disparate cast of characters, each with their own dramas. Essentially this series is a soap opera - while ostensibly about a private detective, the mysteries are only a small part of the books. I was lucky enough to see Alexander McCall Smith talking about this book and he cheerfully said that he takes pride in the fact that nothing happens in his books, being of the view that there is quite enough happening in the world without authors adding to it.
Of course saying that nothing happens is an exaggeration. In this instalment, Mma Ramotswe's tiny white van has finally broken down, seemingly for good. Meanwhile Charlie the apprentice is dealing with a young lady who is claiming that her baby is his responsibility. Mma Rakutsi (Mma Ramotswe's assistant) is still engaged to Phuti Radiphuti, but Violet Sephotho plays a major role as she gets a job in the Double Comfort furniture store with the sole aim of moving in on him for herself. And as ever, between solving cases Mma Ramotswe gives lovely little reflections on ethics and best detective practices.
This is a lovely book which lives up in every way to its predecessors. My only regret is that I now have to wait a year for the next.
So says Bishop Trevor Mwamba, while drinking tea and discussing the end of the world with lady detective Precious Ramotswe. These thoughts about the transience of all things are triggered by Mma Ramotswe's much loved but ailing "little white van", which reaches the end of the road, or more literally, the scrap yard, to be replaced by a larger, more comfortable but less lovable, blue one. In this, the tenth instalment of Alexander McCall Smith's excellent series, The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Mma Ramotswe continues to drink much redbush tea, which probably doesn't accentuate her traditional build, but she doubles her weekly consumption of doughnuts, which probably does. Her new resolution to walk to work lasts for only a short time - and a couple of blisters - as all such resolutions are wont to do.
We meet all the old characters - Mma Ramotse's strident assistant, Mma Makutsi, her mechanic husband Mr J. L. B. Matekoni, and his apprentice lazy Charlie. We are properly introduced to Fanwell, hitherto known only as "the younger apprentice", and through him McCall Smith reminds us of the ravages that AIDS has inflicted on Botswana, the one melancholy theme of the series.
The agency's major case involves an investigation into the underperformance of the football team, the Kalahari Swoopers, which give the detectives many opportunities to contemplate the differences between the sexes. As usual, Mma Ramotswe arrives at a solution that should improve the world a little. The same cannot be said of the lady detectives' encounter with Mma Makutsi's old enemy, Violet Sephotho, but with the assistance of Charlie and his lady-killing skills, she is at least seen off from her attempted seduction of the former's fiancé, Phuti Radiphuti.
This is a gentle, life-affirming commentary on the human condition, written in a light and entertaining way. It's not crime fiction, it's not a thriller, but this book, the others in the series and indeed those other of McCall Smith's books that I have read are a welcome break from faster paced, or more overtly serious, reading. If you haven't read any of them yet, give it a try. While I'd start with the first in the series, this book is, I think, quite capable of standing on its own. If you have been following the series, then rest assured that this one is up to McCall Smith's normal standard. I look forward to the next one, in which we can only hope that the little white van is recovered, repaired and restored to its loving former owner. Thoroughly recommended.
on 8 March 2009
The tenth book in a series which shows no signs of slowing down or becoming dull or tired. Once more Mma Precious Ramotswe, a 'traditionally built' [i.e. large] lady who loves tea [and donuts] with her assistant, Mma Grace "97%" Makutsi, are required to do some private investigation [this time for the manager of a football team that is now continually losing], and on the way we find out about love ["There is plenty of work for love to do" as Bishop Mwamba says in a conversation with Mma Ramotswe], life and the transcience of all things -- and yet hope and goodness does spring eternal.
While the pace is slow in these books, which may frustrate some, I find it calming and enjoyable; while issues such as AIDS are mentioned and brought to attention, the overall theme of these books, in which the investigations do play second-fiddle, is on the general goodness of people and the joy of life. This is a worthy addition to a series I can read over and over again and enjoy more and more each time.
on 4 April 2009
When I read the very first book in this series I passed it on to my daughter who asked, "What is it about?" errrr nothing really. "Well what happens in it?" errrr nothing much really. I had to persuade her to read it and of course she loved it. Now I can't even wait for them to come out it paperback. I splash out on the hardback, but it is well worth it as there is now a list of five people waiting for it to passed around them.
Now if I was to be asked, "What is it about?" I think I would answer that it is about behaving in a kind and thoughful manner; It is about good manners and politeness; It is about a sensible pace of life and a grasp of what really matters; it is a rest in a busy day and step into a better world for a while, and bringing some of that world back into day to day life once the pages have all been turned.
on 28 March 2009
I have just finished reading the latest installment from Botswana and I am gutted that I have, a whole year to wait for the next one! The TV series is fantastic and is spot on with the characters and the setting that you imagine. I read these books as an escape, they always have time for each other and the pace of life is a lot slower but also the way they are written is so gentle that you just want to keep reading. Love these books and recommend them to anyone.
If you are new to the Ladies Detective Agency then start from the beginning, they are just lovely to read.
Nothing major happens in this book but lots of more minor things occur which have a significant impact on the author's steadily increasing cast of characters. It really isn't about the content but about the way in which the books are written and the homespun morality which Mma Ramotswe dispenses over the red bush tea.
In this book Mma Ramotswe has to part from her beloved white van and decides to walk to work only to be defeated by blisters. She investigates two men for a client who is trying to decide between them and worries about her husband when he is late home. Mma Makutsi is worried about someone trying to take her fiancé away from her and, as ever, spends too much money on shoes which seem to speak to her. Both women become involved in an investigation involving the local football team and the manager learns a lesson about listening. We learn more about the life of the younger apprentice whose name we are finally given. Musch tea is drunk and much thinking goes on before everything is wrapped up satisfactorily.
These books could, by this time in the series, have edged into sentimentality but they still keep on the right side of that line and can better be described as life affirming and heart warming. You read them with a smile and a feeling that if we all slowed down a bit, were kinder to one another, and possibly drank more tea then the world would be a much better place.
I've enjoyed immensely the previous nine books in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, and cannot but really give this anything other than the full 5 stars. The usual characters are on form, putting the world to rights whilst imbibing copious quantities of red bush tea. Mma Makutsi is her usual abrasive self acting as a foil for the more emollient Mma Ramotswe. The scheming Violet Sephotho gets her comeuppance, at least for the time being, and Mma Ramotswe proves adept as a football team manageress. Are there no end to her skills, except of motor car maintenance? It's all told with the usual simple sardonic wit and observations. The door is left open at the end for another episode which I guess might include the resurrection of the light white van, the revenge of Violet Sephotho, more buying of shoes, tips for the care of difficult skin, and no doubt more pearls of wisdom and cups of bush tea. Who knows, one day Charlie might actually complete his apprenticeship!? I can hardly wait, Rra McCall Smith
on 28 April 2009
The Number One Ladies Detective Agancy books are utterly irresistible. They are exquisitely well-written, the simplicity of the style belying the wise/perceptive/often amusing philosophy of the main character, Mma Precious Ramotswe. The feeling of Botswana, where the books are set, is palpable, and the storylines - in this book as well as in the others of this series - are simultaneously compelling and yet unimportant; you want to know what happens, but mainly you want to be with the characters - to be sympathetic to their troubles, to be moved by their affections, to be intrigued by their ingenuity, to be amused by the endearing way in which the author portrays their dilemmas (for example, Mma Makutsi's love of her shoes and the occasional attribution of personalities and dialogue to them). The sadness and worry of AIDS (never mentioned by name) is gently alluded to; these are not fairy tales - they are tales about real people with real problems, but they are described, revealed and dealt with so lovingly that it makes you want to be in Botswana with them, to know them, to help them, and to smile with them.
There is only one really big disappointment in reading these books, and it's this: - that, when you regrettfully reach the final page, you know you will have to wait for nearly a year for the next book in the series. But it sure is worth the wait.
on 6 February 2010
I loved reading the next instalment of the No 1 Detictive agency and all its characters, but I was left slightly disappointed by the feeble story line. Not up to the usual standard.
on 6 April 2016
If you want an easy read, full of laughter, little bit of suspense and a wonderful view on life, then this series of books is definitely for you. Mma Ramostswe sees the good in every situation and in everyone. She helps everyone from different walks of life treating them with respect and kindness. All this is set in a back drop of Botswana. The descriptions that Alexander Smith gives us of the people, their way of life and not forgetting the cattle is fantastic and transports you this beautiful country of heat, fleeting greenery and welcome rainfall. Always an enjoyable read.