“Does not disappoint.... Wonderful and addictive.”
“Smith wisely doesn’t tamper with his winning recipe for literary comfort food.... As always, the detection is secondary to Smith’s continuing exploration of the rhythms and social dynamics of small-town African life.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“I love Mma Ramotswe more and more.... These books always leave me feeling more positive, more optimistic, more content…. Fans will find nothing disappointing here, other than the soft sigh as you turn the final page, knowing you must wait a little time again for the next installment!”
—The Bookbag (UK)
About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Mma Ramotswe was fortunate in having an untroubled con-science, and therefore generally enjoyed undisturbed sleep. It was her habit to take to her bed after a final cup of red bush tea at around ten o’clock at night. Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, her husband and by common consent the finest mechanic in all Botswana, would often retire before her, particularly if he had had a tiring day at work. Mechanics in general sleep well, as do many others whose day is taken up with physically demanding labour. So by the time that Mma Ramotswe went to bed, he might already be lost to this world, his breathing deep and regular, his eyes firmly closed to the bedside light that he would leave for his wife to extinguish.
She would not take long to go to sleep, drifting off to thoughts of what had happened that day; to images of herself drinking tea in the office or driving her van on an errand; to the picture of Mma Makutsi sitting upright at her desk, her large glasses catching the light as she held forth on some issue or other. Or to some memory of a long time ago, of her father walking down a dusty road, holding her hand and explaining to her about the ways of cattle—a subject that he knew so well. When a wise man dies, there is so much history that is lost: that is what they said, and Mma Ramotswe knew it to be true. Her own father, the late Obed Ramotswe, had taken so much with him, but had also left much behind, so many memories and sayings and observations, that she, his daughter, could now call up and cherish as she waited for the soft arms of sleep to embrace her.
Mma Ramotswe did not remember her dreams for very long once she had woken up. Occasionally, though, an egregiously vivid dream might make such an impression that it lodged in her memory, and that is what happened that morning. It was not in any way a bad dream; nor was it a particularly good dream, the sort of dream that makes one feel as if one has been vouchsafed some great mystical insight; it was, rather, one of those dreams that seems to be a clear warning that something special is about to happen. If a dream involves lottery tickets and numbers, then its meaning is clear enough. This dream was not like that, and yet it left Mma Ramotswe feeling that she had somehow been given advance notice of something out of the ordinary, something important.
In this dream she was walking along a path in the stretch of bush immediately behind Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, the building that the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency shared with Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni’s garage. She was not sure where she was going, but this did not seem to matter as Mma Ramotswe felt happy just to be walking along it with no great sense of having to reach a destination. And why should one not walk along a path, particularly a comfortable path, without any idea of getting anywhere?
She turned a corner and found herself faced with a large acacia tree, its foliage extending out like the canopy of a commodious umbrella. To dream of trees is to . . . to long for trees, and finding herself under the shade of this tree would have been enough to make the dream a satisfactory one. But there was more to it. Underneath the tree, standing in such a position that the mottled shade of the leaves all but obscured his face, was a tall, well-built man. He now stepped forward, held out a hand and said, “I have come at last, Mma Ramotswe.”
And that was the point at which Mma Ramotswe awoke. The encounter with this stranger had not been threatening in any way; there had been nothing in his demeanour that was suggestive of hostility, and she had not felt in the slightest bit anxious. As for what he said, she had simply thought, even if she had not had the time to say it, Yes, it has been a long time.
For a few minutes after waking, she had lain still in bed, mulling over the dream. Had the man been her father, then the dream would have been easy to understand. She knew that she dreamed of her father from time to time, which was only to be expected, given that not a day went past, not one day, when she did not think of that great and good man, the late Obed Ramotswe. If you think of somebody every day, then you can be sure you will dream of him at night; but it was not him whom she encountered under that acacia tree—that was very clear. It was somebody quite different, somebody she sensed was from a long way away. But who could that be? Mma Ramotswe did not really know anybody from a long way away, unless one counted Francistown or Maun, where she knew a number of people. But those towns, although several hundred miles from Gaborone, are both in Botswana, and nowhere in Botswana was the abode of strangers. That was because Botswana, to those who lived there, was home, and familiar, and comfortable, and no place in such a country will seem far away. No, this man under the tree was from somewhere outside the country, and that was unusual and puzzling and would have to be thought about at some length.
“I had a very unusual dream,” she said to Mma Makutsi as they attended to the morning’s mail in the office.
Mma Makutsi looked up from the envelope that she was in the process of slitting open. “Dreams are always unusual,” she said. “In fact, it is unusual to have a usual dream.”
Mma Ramotswe frowned. She thought that she understood what Mma Makutsi meant but was not quite sure. Her assistant had a habit of making enigmatic remarks, and this, she suspected, was one such remark.
“Phuti,” Mma Makutsi continued, referring to her new husband, Phuti Radiphuti, “Phuti has many dreams, every night. He tells me about them and I explain what they mean.” She paused. “He often dreams about furniture.”
“That is because he has a furniture shop,” Mma Ramotswe said. “So perhaps it is not surprising.”
“That is so, Mma,” agreed Mma Makutsi. “But he can dream about different pieces of furniture.” She paused, fixing Mma Ramotswe on the other side of the room with the cautious look of one about to reveal sensitive information. She lowered her voice. “Some nights he dreams about beds; other nights he dreams about dining room tables. It is very strange.”
Mma Ramotswe looked down at her desk. She did not like to discuss the intimate side of anybody’s marriage—particularly when the marriage was as recent as Mma Makutsi’s. She thought of new marriages as being rather like those shy, delicate flowers one sees on the edge of the Kalahari; so small that one might miss them altogether, so vulnerable that a careless step might crush their beauty. Of course, people talked about their dreams without too much embarrassment—most dreams, after all, sound inconsequential and silly in the cold light of day—but it was different when a wife talked about a husband’s dreams, or a husband about a wife’s. Dreams occurred in beds, and what occurred in marital beds was not a subject for debate in the office—especially if the dream related to beds, as it appeared that some of Phuti Radiphuti’s dreams did.
But if Mma Ramotswe was reluctant to probe Phuti’s dreams too closely, the same was not true of her assistant. The topic had now been broached, and Mma Makutsi pursued it enthusiastically.
“There is no doubt about a dream about beds,” she continued. “The meaning of that dream is very clear, Mma. It should be very obvious, even to a person who does not know much about dreams, or other things, for that matter.”
Mma Ramotswe said nothing.
“Yes,” said Mma Makutsi, “if a person says I have been dreaming about beds, then you know straight away what the dream means. You can say to them, I know what that dream means. It is very clear.”
Mma Ramotswe looked out of the window, which was high, and gave a view from that angle only of a slice of blue; empty blue; blue with no white of cloud; nothingness. “Is the meaning of dreams clear, Mma? Do any dreams make sense, or are they just like . . . like clouds in the sky, composed of nothing very much? Maybe they are clouds in our mind, Mma; maybe that is what they are.”
Mma Makutsi was having none of this. “The meaning is often clear,” she retorted. “I have no difficulty, Mma, in understanding a dream about beds.”
Mma Ramotswe sighed. “Well, they do say, don’t they, Mma, that men have such things on their minds most of the time. They say that men think only of that, all day. Listen to the way Charlie speaks when he thinks you can’t hear him. That shows you what men think about—or... --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.