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This is the 11th installment in Alexander McCall Smith's enchanting and uplifting series about a female detective living in Botswana. It is not necessary to have read ALL the other books in the series, but if you haven't read any, this is probably not the best place to start.

The structure is very similar to others in the series, with the familiar cast of characters appearing. There are essentially four interwoven storylines. Mma Makutsi's fiance Mr Phuti Radiphuti is in an accident and she clashes with his aunt over who should nurse him back to health. Meanwhile, Mma Ramotswe has several cases on the go. She is asked to investigate whether a husband is being unfaithful, to assist another man who has been swindled out of his money and travels with Mma Makutsi to the Okavango Delta to track down a safari guide who has been left some money in a will. However the storylines often take a backseat to discussions about teapots, new boots and the merits of the new blue van.

The book opens with Mr J L B Matekoni musing about road rage and the futility of reacting to it and it ends with Mma Ramotswe musing about how to lead a good life. "Do not complain about your life. Do not blame others for things that you have brought upon yourself. Be content with who you are and where you are, and do whatever you can to bring to others such contentment, and joy, and understanding that you have managed to find yourself."

It's a lovely, warm and fuzzy novel that lives up in every way to the others in this gorgeous series.
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on 8 March 2010
Our favourite novelist has done it again - another magnificent Ramotswe novel. Seldom is no.2 as good as no.1, but in this case no.11 is as good as the previous ten, and all the wonderful cast of characters whom we have come to love are back and with as much enjoyment as ever.
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Precious Ramotswe has several interesting cases to deal with in this latest story from Botswana. There is her friend the midwife who wonders whether her husband is having an affair; the unexpected commission from America which involves her going to a safari camp to track down a guide; and her own assistant Grace Makutsi has a problem when her fiancé is injured.

As usual, common sense and old fashioned values are essential in solving the various problems. In between interesting observations on human nature Precious reflects on the beauty of her own country and the way the old fashioned values still prevail with most people. Even in her husband's garage business the unruly apprentices are calming down as they get older and more experienced at their jobs.

I love the gentle humour of this series and the way Mma Ramotswe triumphs in the end through sheer perseverance and good humour and how she steers her prickly assistant in the right direction without offending her. There are lessons for all of us in this low key novel. Very enjoyable.
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on 9 April 2010
I am a big fan of McCall Smith's No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. I have always felt that the author captured the "voice" of his subjects perfectly, down to the nuance and unique inflections that are completely African. The warmth, humour, sense of values and pride of country that McCall Smith's characters display in such a convincing way are things that bring positive reinforcement to the African image.

I must admit that I was slightly disappointed with "the double comfort safari club". That authentic "African voice" seems to have been somewhat lost here, with the characters slipping in and out of colloquial sounding English. The book also read, to me, that it was slightly rushed and so didn't really tug at many emotive strings in this reader as the previous book had. Maybe this was something to do with the content as well, which didn't draw me in too much.

I really hope that McCall Smith is not losing steam with Mma Ramotswe and her ilk, though. It is rare that such gems of books with African subjects become popular on a global scale and it would be a shame to lose the "magic" and appeal that made this series a worldwide favourite.
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"Traditionally built," and focused on the traditional values of Gaborone, Botswana, where she runs the #1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Mma Precious Ramotswe is genuinely "nice"-always believing in the goodness inherent in even the most challenging adversary, sympathetic without being a pushover, and thoughtful and intuitive in sniffing out the motives of her clients. As relaxed and considerate as the society she appears to represent, Mma Ramotswe believes that almost any problem can be made better if it is discussed over a cup of bush tea. In this novel, the twelfth in the series, Mma Ramotswe continues to rely on her understanding of human nature and her ability to communicate to solve her clients' problems.

She also relies on her coterie of friends and acquaintances-Mma Grace Makutsi, her homely assistant, still not married to furniture store owner Phuti Radiphuti; Mr. Polopetsi, the "unqualified assistant" to her mechanic husband Mr. J. L. B. Matekone; and Mma Potokwami, the demanding woman who runs the orphan farm, where Mma Ramotswe's adopted children once lived. Once again, too, Violet Sephotho, the one character for whom it is difficult to find redeeming qualities, is creating serious problems by bewitching gullible men.

Four revolving plot lines keep the reader involved and often amused: Mma Ramotswe's husband suspects that one of his customers may be having an affair, but before long, that same woman appears in Mma Ramotswe's office, wanting help because she believes that her husband may be unfaithful. While this story is unfolding, Mma Ramotswe receives a letter from a lawyer in the US, telling her that an elderly woman who had been on a safari to the Okavango delta four years ago is now "late," and that she has left a sizable inheritance to an unknown camp guide. He asks Mma Ramotswe to find the guide, a job that requires Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi to take a trip to the delta for the first time. The trip is a welcome relief for Mma Grace Makutsi whose fiance, Phuti Radiphuti, has had a serious accident, and whose aunt refuses to let Grace see him. In the final plot line, still another new client appears at the agency, seeking help in rebuilding his life after an encounter with Violet Sephotho.

Filled with colorful detail about life in Botswana and even more colorful detail about life in the Okavango delta, the novel retains the warm and endearing charm of all the previous novels, even as the repeating characters continue to develop. Author Alexander McCall Smith has ultimately created an entire community in Gaborone, one which seems somehow familiar, despite its differences from our own lives. The coziest of "cozy" mysteries, this novel, like its predecessors will make lovers of this series feel as if they are "going home" again. Mary Whipple

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VINE VOICEon 24 March 2010
After being a little disappointed by "Tea-time for the traditionally built", I was hoping the 11th helping of the No. 1 Ladies would be more to my liking, and on the whole I was not disappointed. I especially enjoyed the first few chapters - as the thoughts of Mr J.L.B. Matekoni feature strongly, and then there is an accident which makes the tone a little darker than it sometimes is. As usual Alexander McCall Smith manages to make minor incidents a prelude to some entertaining Botswanan philosophy, such as Mma Ramotswe's reception of Grace's suggestion that they should exchange the teapots used for brewing the ordinary and red-bush tea. Later on Grace manages to wangle a pair of boots on expenses, which I thought was probably an oblique comment on recent shenanigans in Westminster, but which Precious puts up with with her usual good humour. I suspect that in the next episode Grace will finally get to marry Phuti, as in this one she has to fight to keep (or rather regain) her man, not with Violet, but with an Aunt who has taken agin her and is clearly hoping to prevent the marriage. Grace does have another run-in with Violet however.

Taken as a whole I've no hesitation in giving the series 5 stars, but by now I'm perhaps a little used to the style of the books to give any particular episode 5 stars. And I did feel short-changed on a couple of occasions, when strokes of good very good fortune enable Mma Ramotswe to resolve cases satisfactorily. There were some intriguing loose ends however, for example we learn that the late-lamented little white van has gone to a "natural mechanic" in the north of Botswana so perhaps it may yet return, so I shall no doubt be looking out for the next and perhaps final instalment.
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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 22 April 2010
Up to now I've loved the whole series. Here, though, McCall Smith seems to have gone onto autopilot. Where's the warmth? Where's the humour? You have to think the author's just got bored with his characters, or maybe had something more important on his mind at the time. My recommendation - if you're working your way through the series, stop before you get here.

An addition. Looking at the other reviews, it seems I'm in a minority in this one. So re-reading both this and a couple of the other books I went in search of exactly what it was I didn't like about this installment. The answer? Most of the book has only two characters in it, Precious and Grace. All the others - JLB, the kids, the apprentices etc have almost completely disappeared (apart from a brief comedy appearance by Mma Potokwane which doesn't really work anyway). Now as we all know by now, it's never been the plot which really drives these books along, it's the characters and the interplay between them. Take most of that out and, for me at least, you have something much less than we've come to expect. Let's hope No12 is a return to form.
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This is the eleventh book in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency novels featuring Precious Ramotswe, and it is exactly like the previous ten. This is no criticism. McCall Smith has found a formula that works, sympathetic characters and a niche market for detective novels which aren't really detective novels, but rather a gentle amble through the foibles of the human spirit in the company of some likeable people.

Unlike other crime series where the novelist has found a winning formula and made it stale (I am thinking of Janet Evanovich here), because the characters do not progress at all, McCall Smith keeps things fresh by allowing his characters to develop in their lives and personalities. Here Mma Makutsi, Mma Ramotswe's secretary and assistant detective, takes centre stage as we are swept up in the continuing drama of her relationship with her fiance Phuti Radiphuti and the fate of her evil nemesis Violet Sephotho.

In the background Mma Ramotswe carefully clears up the mystery of the legacy to a tour guide in the Okavango Delta, an unhappy marriage problem and saves a young man whose hopes of a happy future are about to be dashed by Violet. As always she manages it with maximum grace, minimum fuss and industrial quantities of red bush tea. Very satisfactory.
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on 19 September 2010
This writer has a wonderful understanding of the people and customs of Botswana. His descriptions of the African countryside, with its flora and fauna, can be so easily imagined and enjoyed. The stories of the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency are told with great sensitivity and humour. I look forward to the next book in the series.
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