"Let our master now command your servants, who are before you, to seek out a man who is a skillful player on the harp. And it shall be that he will play it with his hand when the distressing spirit from God is upon you, and you shall be well." -- 1 Samuel 16:16 (NKJV)
At its best, a novel operates through a kind of hypnotism. We enter into a make-believe world . . . and it becomes real to us. In the best of such playful experiences, we try on adventures that we would never consider doing on our own. From the reading, a changed life may follow.
In The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection, Alexander McCall Smith calls out to us to imagine ourselves living life-long dreams . . . and horrible nightmares. Then, he shows us that such futures don't have to be frightening. They can, in fact, be exhilarating. In true McCall Smith fashion, he designs the results to match the funniest possible . . . or most ironic conceivable . . . resolution. In the end, you feel a beautiful kind of peace, knowing that your dreams are going to be supported.
The jacket copy reveals quite a lot about the story. I dare not say more without spoiling the book for you.
Let me just say that Precious Ramotswe finds herself dealing with challenges that seem beyond her detective abilities. Grace Makutsi begins to dream of grandiose events that could overturn much of what she has come to treasure about her life. Phuti Radiphuti discovers that being a husband requires him to do things that aren't always comfortable for him. Two others face injustice. How will they overcome powerful forces beyond their strength?
I thought that some of the scenes in this story were as poignant and funny at the same time as any I've ever read.