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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.
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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.
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VINE VOICEon 27 February 2009
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.
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on 9 September 2016
I have bought the whole series of the No 1 Ladies detective agency not only in hard back but also for my Kindle, I will read them again and again. They are so funny and true to life, you really are not aware that the Author is a white man, the voice is of the ladies and gentlemen of Botswana, a real treat for a good read. I have also recommended these to my friends, most of whom love the series as well!
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on 27 April 2017
These books are very easy to read and you can get right into the story. The Charles become your friends and are so easy to get to know. Well worth buying. I have the books on my kindle fire, I also have the paper books so my friends can read them.
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on 25 April 2017
Me and my mum both love these books! Would reccomend :)
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Excellent as usual
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on 1 April 2015
Just lovely. If you liked the others you'll love this too.
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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.
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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.
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