Mma Precious Ramotswe, proprietor of the #1 Ladies Detective Agency in Gaborone, is a much-respected, traditional woman (of "traditional size") who honors the customs of Botswana and tries to solve problems for her clients the "traditional" way--through her broad network of friends and family with whom she can sit down, drink bush tea, and "talk about very small things," as she searches for clues. She is a warm and happy woman of good sense, and her detective agency is a huge success because of her discretion and care for her clients' feelings. In this novel, full of gentle humor and wisdom, Mma Ramotswe deals with two clients, one of whom committed a minor crime many years ago and for which he now wants to make amends, and one of whom is worried about a philandering husband. Both cases require the utmost in tact and sensitivity. Mma Ramotswe is also concerned with some personal matters. A rival detective agency, run by an aggressive man, opens an office in Gaborone to great fanfare, and he publicly demeans the #1 Ladies Detective Agency in a news feature. Mma Ramotswe's fiancé, Mr. J. L. B. Matakone still has not set a wedding date, though he clearly loves her, and one of the young orphans she and Mr. J. L. B. Matakone are mentoring, begins to have serious behavior problems. In addition, Mma Makutsi, Mma Ramotswe's assistant, who is barely making ends meet with her current jobs, decides to open a typing school for men after work. Mma Makutsi soon falls in love with one of her students, someone Mma Ramotswe finds inappropriate. Domestic issues and human relationships, rather than exciting plot lines, keep the focus on the characters--beautifully drawn, sometimes flawed, and always forgiven their faults. In a pace as relaxed as life in Botswana, author Alexander McCall Smith recreates the colorful everyday lives of these ordinary people, who treasure friendships, treat each other with respect, and possess inherent good sense. In simple, direct prose filled with homely details, the author celebrates a traditional lifestyle and its values during a time in which change may become inevitable. A warm, relaxing read, filled with the joy of life. Mary Whipple
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