If you haven't read any other books in the series, don't start with this one! Why? Most of the plot's impact relies on long-standing character and relationship developments developed in the prior seven books. Alexander McCall Smith does a fine job of referencing those histories, but the impact won't be the same without having read about those events in the earlier books. This is particularly important to the extreme sense of fun that the book can bring to you.
The theme of this book could be summarized in the humorous Joel Osteen aphorism, "The grass may look greener on the other side of the fence, but it still has to be mowed." Precious Ramotswe's world is turned upside down when many of those closest to her decide that they want changes in their lives. Her husband, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, wants to take a turn at being a detective. Mma. Makutsi, her able assistant, is increasingly restive as she looks forward to marriage to the wealthy Phutti Radiphutti and doesn't see herself in the assistant role any more. In fact, she decides she wants a new job! The woman-chasing Charlie decides to drop out of his apprenticeship with Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni and start his own taxi business. Never has Precious faced so many changes in those who are closest to her since her father, Obed Ramotswe, died.
Talk about a great set-up for a book. Wow!
Obviously, life isn't as easy to change as that. You have to know how to work with clients and detect in order to be a detective. The easy-going Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni is easily cowed by his client, the very rude Mma. Botumile. In fact, he just follows her direction.
Mma. Makutsi has forgotten that most offices in Botswana want to hire help for their appearance rather than for their skill. She also forgets that much of what she does with Precious is prepare tea and chat.
Charlie would probably be fine as a taxi driver, as long as there aren't any women to look at. Put a woman near him, and all bets are off!
Like the better books in the series, The Good Husband of Zebra Drive has several mysteries in it:
1. Patients on ventilators in the same hospital bed have unexpectedly died on three different Fridays. The ventilators check out and no one can think of any explanation for what has happened.
2. Mma. Botumile feels that her husband has taken up with another woman and wants to know who her rival is.
3. Valuable supplies are being stolen from a printing company. The owner thinks she knows who the thief is, but lacks proof.
Only the first of these mysteries provides satisfaction for the mystery fan. The other two mysteries are mere backdrops for character development.
As the book ended, I found myself a little disappointed by the facile resolutions (albeit humorous) put forward for the three seekers' desires to take a step up. I had hoped for more in those plot developments.
So the ending left me feeling that the promise of the book's premise hadn't really been met as well as I would have liked.
But none of the stories has more funny situations in it. You'll be laughing aloud throughout the book . . . especially if you enjoy Mma. Makutsi's fascination with shoes.
You won't put the book down. I started late and stayed up until 1 a.m. to finish. I was smiling as I did.