The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series)

by Alexander McCall Smith

Hardcover, 2011

Call number




Pantheon Books (2011), Edition: First Edition, 213 pages


Hoping to reclaim a van that was featured in a possible prophetic dream, Precious and Grace find themselves helping an apprentice of Phuti Radiphuti, investigating a cattle poisoning, and considering Grace's possible marriage to Phuti.

Media reviews

Nothing very mysterious here, of course, but the solution to the problem of those dead cattle is wonderfully inconclusive, and you’ll never get through the wedding with dry eyes.

User reviews

LibraryThing member cwlongshot
This book is more about the usual characters in the Number One Ladies Detective series than the mystery. I don't find the lead character's obsession with her "tiny white van" all that interesting; let's hope this book puts an end to that subplot. The other subplots have become so predictable that only the core mystery is interesting. Though I've loved some of the books in this series, this may be the last one I read.… (more)
LibraryThing member brendajanefrank
How nice it is to be with Mma Ramotswe, again. I have read all the previous books in the series and my fondness for her had not waned. Such wise, loving, gentle and caring people are rare, indeed, even in fiction. Her character is well reflected in the following musing:

"Yes, we have only one heart, but as you grow older, your heart grows bigger. A child loves only one or two things; we love so many things."
"Such as?"
Mma Ramotswe smiled. "Botswana. Rain. Cattle. Friends. Our children. Our late relatives. The smell of woodsmoke in the morning. Redbush tea..."

The "No. 1 Ladies Detective" series does follow a formula. Events must occur revealing more about the personal lives of Mma Ramotswe, her husband, Mr. J.LB. Mameloni, her two foster children, assistant detective Mma Makeweights. Also, there must be a major case for the detective agency to solve, and usually some minor cases as well. Mma Ramotswe is the glue that holds the entire novel together.

In "The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party," the required personal events are satisfied; however, the detective work is a bit weak. A farmer hires the Mma Ramotswe to solve the mystery of who killed two of his valuable cattle. As usual, the investigation requires interviews and analysis of many people to determine which have lied and how to resolve the conflict and crime. Guided by the teaching of Clovis Andersen's, "The Principles of Private Detection," Mma Ramotswe again succeeds in solving the case in the most equitable way possible. Unlike most of the mysteries, the culmination is ambiguous, lacking the clear designation of culprit and victim.

Yet, we don't really regard the "No. 1 Detective" series as "who done its." The real motivation to read these books is to spend time with Mma Ramotswe. She has the ability to find deep meaning in the most common surroundings. For example, we read about Mma Ramotswe entering a school on a neatly kept path, a "government path, marked on each side by a line of whitewashed stones."

"In the old days of the Protectorate [in Botswana], when the British still had their district commissioners, there were many such paths throughout Africa, and whitewashed tree trunks too. This habit of whitewashing had lingered in some places, where people thought of it as a way of holding disorder at bay; lines of white stones represented structure, a bulwark against the encroachment of the bush."

The conclusion of each short book, about 200 pages, in the series always leaves you wanting more, a sure sign of success.
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LibraryThing member mamzel
Mma Ramotswe has her No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency in a town in Botswana where just about everyone is related to or knows everyone else. It must be hard to get away with anything in such a tight community but she still has clients and mysteries to solve.

She is asked to find who has hamstrung and consequently killed two cows on a farm outside of town . On a personal quest, she looks into the supposed fatherhood of one of her husband's apprentice's, Charlie, who panics at the thought he is suddenly responsible for twins. On top of all of this, Mma Makutsi is in the final preparations of her marriage to furniture store owner, Phuti Radiphuti. And how can she be seeing her old little white van which was beyond repair, according to her husband, J.L.B. Matekoni, owner of Speedy Motors?

Mma Ramotswe uses her usual thoughtful and respectful ways to gently get to the truth, or as close to it as is necessary to satisfy everyone. Along the way we are treated to the way of life in this far away country, not whitewashed for tourists. As this is the twelfth book of the series I fell like I know these people, can smell the fragrant night air, and taste the dust from the roads. This series is always such a relief from the hard paced, high tech, violent fare of other popular series
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LibraryThing member etxgardener
A new No.1 Lades' Detective novel is always a cause for celebration and this, thew thirteenth installment in the series, does not disappoint. Precious Ramotswe has a new case - a man who has had some of his cattle killed in a singularly brutal way. However, as is usual, things are not what they initially seem to be in this case, and Mma Ramatswe is found scratching her head more than usual to find the answer.

To complicate things, Charlie the young man who has been a mechanic's apprentice probably longer than anyone in Botswana, seems to have gotten a girl pregnant & then abandoned her & her new-born twins. Violet Sephotho is running for Parliament to the consternation of Grace Makutsi. And finally Mma Makutsi seems to finally be getting married to Phuti Radiphuti - that is, if she can find just the right pair of shoes.

Told in the author's gentle and affectionate voice, this new novel is a delight.
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LibraryThing member frisbeesage
It is amazing to me that after 12 books in the series Alexander McCall Smith can still keep the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency fresh and interesting, and he does!

In Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party the big event is, of course, the long awaited wedding of Grace Makutsi and Phuti Radiphuti. There is so much to plan and Mma Makutsi is suffering from wedding jitters. Could the upheaval be the reason why both Mma Makutsi and Mma Ramotswe seem to be hallucinating all the sudden? Because surely they aren't really seeing the ghost of the little white van? Add in the usual shenanigans from Charlie, the apprentice mechanic who has definitely stepped too far over the line this time and a client whose cattle are being horrifically wounded in the middle of the night and Mma Ramotswe will need to keep her wits about her!

Alexander McCall Smith delivers all the charm, humor, and generosity you would expect in Saturday Big Tent Wedding. Mma Ramotswe is her usual wise self dispensing wisdom that seems personally relevant even though it comes from the edge of the Kalahari Desert. It was nice to see that the characters continue to grow and develop. Many of her cases in this book offer more ambiguity than usual and Mma Ramotswe must be content with solutions that are less than the truth. Charlie, the apprentice mechanic, makes more of an appearance in this book. I enjoyed getting to know a side character better and I hope he continues to develop in future installments. In the end it is always a great source of comfort to spend some time with Mma Ramotswe and her family. A very satisfying and entertaining book!
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LibraryThing member Queensowntalia
Smith's latest installment of the Ladies No 1. Detective Agency novels offers yet another serving of everything that makes the series so great: quietly witty banter, warmly likeable, if quirky, characters, and a wonderfully depicted setting. These books have no great drama about them. Mma. Ramotswe doesn't fight off hordes of ninjas or stop assassins from taking out the President. She doesn't uncover sinister blackmailing schemes orchestrated by government flunkies. She deals with real people, regular people, which makes these wonderful stories that much easier to relate to. At the same time, the quasi-exotic setting adds a lovely, intriguing flavor to the books. I always think reading one of these novels is like enjoying a cup of hot apple cider, warm, comforting and satisfying. This installment is no exception, with the bonus of an extra happy emotional payout at the end.… (more)
LibraryThing member khiemstra631
Yet another installment in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series has been released, and it's a dandy! Grace Makutsi is preparing for her wedding, which actually occurs before the end of this book! A couple of cases need solving, and there is all sorts of trouble with Charlie, the apprentice of Mr. J.D. Matakone. I listened to the audio version of this book, and it was a total delight that made me very sorry to see it end. Precious Ramotswe is definitely a treasure for Botswana. What a fun book!… (more)
LibraryThing member bagambo
I can't believe that I forgot this book was coming out. I love this series and somehow, I completely spaced out on the fact that Alexander McCall Smith had released a new one this year. Anyhow, lucky for me I spotted a copy of it at (of all places) Target. Of course, I grabbed it and ran to the cashier to pay for it so that I could get home and start reading it ASAP. And let me just say how happy I was to be taken back into the world of Precious Ramotswe and her home country of Botswana. These books are similar to drinking a good cup of red bush tea and chatting with one of your dearest friends - they are a pleasure.

This time round, we have duplicitous clients, a runaway apprentice, broken heels, and a mystery van. Crikey, makes me think of Scooby Doo and the gang - Ha! Anyhow, in the latest installment, there is drama and more drama and let me just say I loved it - mainly because it gave me the chance to catch up with my dear friends, Mma. Ramotswe and Grace Makutsi. Basically, life is moving forward. Grace is planning her wedding to Phuti and excited at the prospect of having a husband, a new home and a new life. Precious is worried that she is seeing things, because she has spotted her tiny white van around town - this is the van she parted with because it was no longer in working order. And then we have Charlie, who has earned the reputation of deadbeat daddy. Hmmm. What is going on? Will Mma. Ramotswe be able to save the day for everyone, including herself? Of course, she will! I won't tell you how, but suffice it to say, truths are revealed and the return of a dear old friend make for quite a sweet read.
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LibraryThing member sweetiegherkin
Back for another adventure is Mma Ramotswe and the rest of the cast of characters that make up Alexander McCall Smith's Gaborone. Mma Ramotswe works on a case of a farmer's cattle who are being mysteriously slashed in the middle of the night, Charlie's girlfriend has given birth to twins, and, as the title hints, Mma Makutsi and Phuti Radhiputi plan for their wedding at last.

I've become resigned to the fact that these books are becoming less and less detective fiction and more stories about a group of people, of whom two work at a detective agency. Coming into it with this view, I enjoyed this book more than some of the more recent ones I've read in the series, where I had come away disappointed that it took so long to even have one mystery introduced. This time I was glad to take my time listening to Mma Ramotswe's random thoughts (her musings on gender roles were, as always, interesting. I particularly loved this quote: "Such men who put women down were really rather weak themselves, building themselves up by belittling women. A truly strong man would never want that.") as well as Mma Makutsi's before even coming to the first case. I enjoyed the philosophizing and gentle humor. Some of the jokes were starting to feel a bit old (like the numerous mentions in this book alone of Mma Makutsi's 97 percent at the Botswana Secretarial College) but, on the other hand, this does add to the feeling of coming to meet with old friends - for who doesn't share the same old inside joke over and over again with old friends to find it funny every time? I, however, didn't like that the one case Mma Ramotswe worked on was tied up just a little too quickly without much detective work on her part. I'll probably continue along with the series even though I find the books not quite as compelling as I once did.
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LibraryThing member sgsain
As usual Alexander McCall Smith has created the charming world of Mma Precious Ramotswe's Botswana where mysteries even those involving violent acts are solved using keen powers of observations and judicious use of manners and politeness. This time Mma Ramotswe must find out who killed a farmer's cattle while helping Charlie face this responsibilty for his latest and maybe greatest mistake. Meanwhile, she is haunted by the "ghost" of her beloved little white van. Finally, Grace Maksuti is becoming more and more prickly as her wedding to Phuti Radiphuti grows near. Don't worry all is resolved in a way that is satisfying and only as the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency can. This is a great read for a hot summer's day.… (more)
LibraryThing member delphimo
The book ends with the wedding of Grace and Phuti, and the resolution of all the problems and cases that Precious must solve. The story shows the difference among various bosses and the difference between gossip and truth. Smith also dwells on the difference between old Botswana and new Botswana. One of the stories involves Precious and her new blue truck and her old white truck. Precious mourns the loss of her old, small, white truck and starts seeing what she believes is this truck. Grace soon follows suit and sees the old truck. As detectives, Grace and Precious investigate the issue and find the old truck now restored to running order. The reader can imagine what will happen. The story is told realistically with all the emotions evident in everyday life: hate, envy, and love.… (more)
LibraryThing member smik
Reading the next installment in the cozy series The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency has become an annual delight and this one came up to expectations. Essentially they are quick and easy reads, set in Botswana, and just the cup of tea for those who like cozies.

On the eve of Mma Makutsi's long awaited wedding the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency takes on a new case with a new client who had not wanted to meet Mma Ramotswe in the office. Someone has killed two of Botsalo Moeti's cattle and he would like Precious Ramotswe to find out who and why.

This is typical of the cases that the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency takes on and eventually Mma Ramotswe comes up with several possible scenarios. She also applies her mind to a number of domestic issues, resolving all of them satisfactorily.

I'm sure the fact that I enjoy this series so much is related to the fact that I've been reading them since the first was published back in 1998. They've all been good reads, cozies, and there has been story-line development. So, if you've never tried them, hunt down the first THE NO. 1 LADIES DETECTIVE AGENCY and begin your journey.
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LibraryThing member britbrarian
We are back in Gaborone, in the office of Mma Ramotswe, private detective. This time she is investigating the mutilation of cattle of a strange, distrustful rancher. Mma Makutsi finally has a date set for her wedding to Phuti Radiphuti, and is trying to remain calm while finalizing all of the details. Charlie has disappeared after being confronted about his lack of responsibility regarding the twins he has fathered. On top of it all, there have been ghostly sightings of Mma Ramotswe's little white van, which had been declared dead by Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni. Never have a doubt, however, the Mma Ramotswe will use her good common sense and Clovis Andersen's "The Principles of Detection" to wrap up all of the loose ends.

Although not as exciting as some of the past books in the series, this is still a very nice installment to Alexander McCall Smith's love letter to Botswana. It's as comforting as a cup of red bush tea.
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LibraryThing member Neale
Another good story. The characters are developing well. Thoroughly enjoyable.
LibraryThing member Figgles
Nothing new here, and that's a good thing. The continuing tale of Mma Ramotswe and her friends and family, where compassion and love are the best tools for dealing with the foibles of human nature. As it says on the back cover this is "the one where Mma Makutsi gets married". A lovely read.
LibraryThing member CloggieDownunder
The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party is the twelfth book in Alexander McCall Smith’s No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. Mma Ramotswe has plenty to keep her busy as someone is killing cattle on a southern cattle-post, Charlie the apprentice seems to have fathered twins and Grace Makutsi’s wedding to Phuti Radiphuti is fast approaching. She also has to wonder if she is seeing a ghost when her tiny white van makes an appearance. Mma Makutsi is faced with a shoe dilemma and shows her usual indignance at Violet Sephotho’s latest antics: standing for election. Clovis Anderson’s Principles of Private Detection is freely quoted (where can I get hold of a copy?) and Mma Ramotse manages to resolve the issues, big and small, in time for Grace to (finally!) get married. This audio edition is (once again) beautifully read by Adjoa Andoh (takes me back to kindergarten story time…..). Truly a delight to listen to, it will leave the reader feeling good.… (more)
LibraryThing member hitchin9
I love this series. The heroine is a wonderful character and her personality is what keeps me reading. The author does such a wonderful job at describing Africa and the people that it is easy to fall in love with the culture. Each book contains a mystery, but the real fun is reading about the adventures of your favorite characters.… (more)
LibraryThing member isabelx
'It's not that I don't like Mma Potokwani,' she had said.
'She is a very great lady - One of the greatest in Botswana. But . . .'
'You do not need to say it,' said Phuti. 'She is also a very bossy lady. A good, but bossy lady. I think that there are many people like that.
Mma Makutsi smiled. 'Yes. have you noticed how she tells us to eat up after she put the food on the table? It is as if she is talking to one of the children. "Eat up now - leave nothing on your plate." Have you noticed that?'
Phuti had. 'And she even told me the other day that I could have another piece of cake if I was good. I think she forgets that we are adults.'

As Mma Makutsi's wedding is approaching fast, she is preoccupied by finding the perfect pair of shoes, and horrified when she learns about Violet Sephotho's latest scheme. Mma Ramotswe is haunted by thoughts of her beloved little white van, after seeing what she believes to be its ghost driving along a road. Mma Ramotswe She has other things on her mind too, when she is asked to investigate a very un-Botswanan crime indeed, and learns about the latest mess that Charlie the feckless apprentice has got himself into, both of which lead to musings about the hard life some women still lead in the modern Botswana, and the way they are still treated by some men.

I wasn't that impressed by this book actually; the drama of the wedding shoes was forgotten about for most of book and dismissed in a couple of sentences at the end, while Violet didn't appear in person and her it wasn't until the end of the book, that it was mentioned again and Mma Potokwani suggested a way to foil Violet's plans. i suppose it is possible that the Violet issue may carry over into the next book in the series, but it seemed to me as if the author raised introduced two sources of drama early on and then dropped them after deciding to concentrate on the cattle mutilation case instead. The wedding at the end also seemed over and done with far too quickly, and it wasn't really believable that Mma Potokwani wasn't originally invited to the wedding when she had looked after Phuti Radiphuti so well as he recuperated after his accident.… (more)
LibraryThing member arielfl
First off let me start by saying I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this series. It always comes out right around my birthday and every year the latest installment is like the best present. I love this series so much that I am always on the lookout for a book like it which has led me to Maisie Dobbs (another great series in the cozy detective niche) and the Isabelle Dalhousie series (a mixed bag for me). If you are reading this book which is number twelve in the series I am sure you love Precious Ramotswe and company too. That being said something was missing for me this outing. This is the first book that I can think of where the mystery has not been definitively solved by book's end. The side mystery involving Charlie was just not that interesting to me. I usually love hearing about the feckless apprentices. I work at my husbands mechanic shop so I especially love the parts that involve Speedy Motors. Finally the wedding was so short! I have been waiting for that wedding for many books now and feel a little let down. I also miss Puso and Motholeli, I hope the kids get more attention in the next book. I guess this book just left me wanting more to read because I so enjoy the series. I look forward to number thirteen.… (more)
LibraryThing member debnance
There’s something about the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books that appeals to those of us who grew up watching Andy Griffith and Leave It to Beaver. These books by Alexander McCall Smith have gentle stories with gentle characters who face difficulties with fortitude and patience. This book, Saturday Big Tent Wedding, is no exception. Yes, one of our main characters has a fiancé who lost his foot in an accident in one of the earlier books in the series, and that causes some troubles, but we know that no one is going to go off the deep end and start shooting random people as a result. The setting is both exotic and homey, set in Africa, but in a town where people know each other and care for each other. I can’t wait for the next book in the series.… (more)
LibraryThing member lamour
Precious Ramotswe is again faced with some difficult cases in this the 12th edition in the series. One farmer asks her find out who is killing his cows while her husband's apprentice Charlie is avoiding his responsibility of providing for the twin girls he has fathered. Her assistant Grace Makutsi's wedding is fast approaching and there are the usual complications. Precious sees her old white van on the street and searches for it and wants to buy it back. Will she be successful if finding it?

As in the other novels in this series, we learn a great deal about Botswana and its culture.
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LibraryThing member Aspenhugger
"The latest installment in the beloved, best-selling series is once again a beautiful blend of wit and wisdom, and a profoundly touching tale of the human heart.

"At a remote cattle post south of Gaborone two cows have been killed, and Precious Ramotswe, Botswana's No. 1 Lady Detective, is asked to investigate by a rather frightened and furtive gentleman. It is an intriguing problemwith plenty of suspects -- including, surprisingly, her own client.

"To complicate matters,Mma Ramotswe is haunted by a vision of her dear old white van, and Grace Makutsi witnesses it as well. Is it the ghost of her old friend, or has it risen from the junkyard? In the meantime, one of Mr. J.L.B Matekoni's apprentices may have gotten a girl pregnant and, under pressure to marry her, has run away. Naturally, it is up to Precious to help sort things out. Add to the mix Violet Sephotho's newly launched run for the Botswana Parliament and a pair of perfect wedding shoes --will wedding bells finally ring for Phuti Radiphuti and Grace Makutsi? -- and we have a charming and delightful tale in the inimitable style of Alexander McCall Smith."
~~front flap

I enjoy this series because it's a lovely, gentle read about ordinary people with ordinary problems. It's the Mitford series, with Father Tim disguised as a lady detective of traditional build. And minus the dog the size of a Buick. Like the Mitford series, it's a world I wish I lived in.
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LibraryThing member Jcambridge
These are enjoyable "light" reads that give the reader a real sense of everyday life in Botswana. For those who are interested in more complex novels about life in Botswana, I encourage you to check out books by Unity Dow, the first female member of Botswana's Supreme Court.
LibraryThing member sriemann
I was very excited when I saw the book on the 'pickup from hold' shelf, ready for me yesterday. A few pages in, and I was comfortably happy in the world of Mma. Ramotswe and her Botswana. Now I am a little sad... because I have finished it and have to wait until the next book (or reread it).
LibraryThing member RidgewayGirl
Everybody has their comfort reads and the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency is mine. Presented as mysteries, the mystery is always subordinate to the gentle, pleasant lives of Precious Ramotswe and her compatriots in a fantasy version of Africa where everything works out well and the problems of the real world exist only in passing or from far away. In this episode, Alexander McCall Smith takes us through the days before Mma Makutsi's wedding to Phuti Radiphuti. There are a few snags, but nothing that isn't solved or resolves itself on its own. There's a problem involving Charlie, Mr J.L.B. Matekoni's feckless apprentice and a slight mystery that Mma Ramoswe solves to everyone's satisfaction. All is well in this glorious version of Botswana.… (more)




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