"Precious Ramotswe is back and, as usual, her plate is full! She's called in to tackle a mysterious disciplinary problem at her adopted daughter's school...Her infinitely trustworthy assistant, Grace Makutsi, is having trouble adjusting to wedded bliss, a problem to test even the formidable talents of Mma Ramotswe...And the estimable Clovis Andersen, author of The Principles of Private Investigation--the No. 1 Ladies' prized manual--has arrived, right there, in Botswana, on a case of his own. Bush tea anyone?"--
They're set in Botswana, where the author once taught law, and feature a gentle humor and warmth that makes reading them feel like taking a short vacation from our daily pressures. They are mysteries, but typically involve the good sorting out, and outwitting, the wicked and greedy. In The LImpopo Academy of Private Detection an auto shop assistant is unjustly accused of being involved in a stolen car racket, and formidable Mma Potakwane is dismissed for shady-appearing reasons from administering the orphanage she has given her life to. Can "traditionally built" Precious Ramotswe use her clear-sightedness and resolve to save both? There's a timely surprise appearance by the author of the book she learned her detective skills from, as the some of the underlying motivations prove hard to bring to light.
These books also have wonderful characters - Precious is insightful, unflappable, maternal and tradition-observing - chastising, for example, a company CEO for chewing a toothpick in front of an out-of-country guest. Her assistant, Grace Makutsi, is inordinately proud of her high score in secretarial college and finds shoe-buying difficult to resist, but also has her own keen instincts and is fiercely loyal. Precious's solid, reliable, common sense husband J.L.B Maketoni, his auto shop assistants, Grace's stutter-prone beloved Phuti and many others brighten the stories and become welcoming friends for the returning reader.
One of Rra Matekoni's apprentices got himself in a fix, too. He helped a friend repair a car that turned out to be stolen and managed to obtain a lawyer that must be the worst in the world.
Mma Ramotswe also receives a visit from a very special person!
No blood, no violence, no hi-tech toys. Just a heaping dose of traditional values, respect, attention to others, and lots of love.
The gems of wisdom in these books are so wonderful. For example Mma. Ramotswe advises Grace never repay rudeness with rudeness because it never teaches a rude person how to behave better. I may have to work on that one. The loving way marriage and family is portrayed is so refreshing too. These books reaffirm family values, kindness, and manners. I always look forward to a visit to the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency.
Those of you familiar with the series may think there's nothing new that can possibly to added to the adventures of the employees of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency and their families, but the appearance of the hero of the ladies' endeavors, Clovis Anderson himself (author of the bible of private detection) and three separate problems makes this one a fresh and exciting read. Grace and Phuti are building a house, Mma Potkwane is trying to keep from being fired as director of the orphans' home, and Mma Ramotswe is trying to prove that one of Mr. J.L.B. Matekone's workers does not deserve to be in jail. With Mr. Anderson's help, they are able to bring everything to a suitable Botswana conclusion.
These are well-written, classically crafted stories. The mysteries are almost an afterthought. McCall-Smith gives us characters who are so human, so devoted to goodness that they could become saccharine. Instead, the author allows them to make mistakes, become depressed and discouraged, and exhibit some pompous behavior that could be hurtful to others. Through it all, their dedication to maintaining the "Botswana way of life" brings us not just a good ending, but a feeling of wanting more. If you haven't yet been to the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency, grab one of these tranquil tellings of stimulating mystery stories and settle back for a feel good read.
The small and relatively quiet world that is Gaborone seems to turn upside down as Fanwell is arrested for working on stolen property; Mma Potokwani is dismissed as director of the orphanage; and Rra Rhadiputhi discovers that his builder is cheating him.
It takes all Mma Ramotse's, Mma Makutsi's, and Clovis Anderson’s detective skills to figure out who the bad people are and how to foil them. And even they could not have achieved success without the help of the good honest citizens of Botswana in the personages of a cosmetician, a bumbling lawyer, an old man on a donkey cart, and an honest carpenter who may be working in Botswana illegally.
Possibly McCall Smith’s tenderest and most great-hearted novel in this series. I have been reading these stories for 15 years and still yearn for more. Smith has created a desire in me to visit Botswana to pursue my belif that its real citizens are as delightful as they seem to be in his charming novels.
But now I know what was missing! What the books contain that I so much enjoy. I'm pretty sure that I have read the whole series, so I'm pretty well acquainted with all the characters. What the books contain is the carefully chosen language with that subtle touch of humour that conveys Mma Ramotswe's thoughts and feelings.
Followers of this series won't be disappointed in THE LIMPOPO ACADEMY OF PRIVATE DETECTION. The stories feel fresh and while there's no murder there's plenty of everyday life, the stuff that makes these cozies so satisfying. There's no doubt about it - McCall Smith has created a cast of characters that we care about.
You'll notice that I have included THE LIMPOPO ACADEMY OF PRIVATE DETECTION under Africa in the 2012 Global Reading Challenge. The novels in this series are very firmly based in Botswana and frequently contain reflections on how Botswana is coping with the modern world. For example Clovis Andersen and Precious Ramotswe talk about how words are disappearing from the language and she often talks about the loss of traditional values. And on a deeper level the novels raise issues about how modern economics is destroying traditional and human structures.
It seems like the world is going off in an unpleasant direction and Mma Ramotswe is determined to get justice for her friends. And then unexpectedly, help arrives in the form of none other than Clovis Anderson, the author of The Principles of Private Detection, the book hat has guided Mma Ramotswe in all her years of running the No. 1 Ladsies Detective Agency. With Clovis Anderson on board, can she possibly not solve the mysteries presented to her?
"Precious Ramotswe is haunted by a repeated dream: a vision of a tall, strange man who waits for her beneath an acacia tree. Odd as this is, she's far too busy to worry about it. The best apprentice at Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors is in trouble with the law and stuck with the worst lawyer in Gabarone. Grace Makutsi and Phuti Radiphuti are building the house of their dreams, but their builder is not completely on the up and up. And, most shockingly, Mma Potokwane, defender of Botswana's weak and downtrodden, has been dismissed from her post as matron at the orphan farm. Can the No.1 DetectiveAgency help restore the beloved matron to her rightful position?
"As wealthy and powerful influences at the orphan farm become allied against their friend,help arrives from an unexpected visitor: the tall stranger fromMma Ramotswe's dreams, who turns out to be none other than the estimable Clovis Andersen, author of the No.1 Ladies' prized manual, The Principles of Private Detection. Together, Mma Ramotswe, Mma Makutsi, and their teacher-turned-colleague help right this injustice and in the process discover something new about being a good detective."
The difficulty with comfort reads and sometimes with series, is that they grow predictable, and a little less wonderful and even a little boring. The last book in this series fell into that unhappy category. This book was a little more lively, had more interesting plots & subplots, and in general was a better read. If you've liked the series before, you will probably like this one too.
As usual, it's all very low-key, although it almost feels like maybe it's just a little more focused on the plot stuff than usual. Which isn't saying much, really, as the plots are never the selling points in these books, anyway.
In any case, I will say this this definitely isn't my favorite of the series, although that just means that it was only a very quick, pleasant read that made me smile or laugh from time to time, rather than giving me a ridiculous all-over case of the warm fuzzies.
The narrative is written in black African voices but lacks the authenticity of the true native writer. I couldn't help but wonder if the somewhat fortuitous and rather inexplicable introduction into the proceedings of the token awkward white man character, Clovis Anderson, is how the author sees himself amongst his African friends, clumsy, yet revered. There are small redeeming features, some of the sub plots are interesting, such as an ongoing court case involving a stolen car and potential wrongful conviction but even there, as throughout the book, McCall Smith seems to be stuck in an old colonial mindset in describing the behaviour of all involved from the officials to the accused.
Not a book that will live long in my memory and an experience which has down graded my opinion of the quality of this author's output.