"And at the table, in that silence as they contemplated the menu, Mma Makutsi's shoes suddenly addressed her. Well, this is nice, we must say!
"Mma Ramotswe looked up from the menu. 'Did you say something, Mma?'"
Only in the No. Ladies' Detective Agency series would it seem normal for shoes to be talking to their owner and someone else to notice while the owner does not. This is a fine example of how Alexander McCall Smith successful extends the bounds of reality to show how we are connected to one another and to the things around us. I particularly commend the imaginary conversations that Mma Ramotswe's van has with her.
As the book opens, Mma Ramotswe's white van is starting to make new noises. She fears that Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni will tell her that it's time to replace the van. To avoid such an awful result, Precious walks to work. The problems begin when she walks home.
The detective agency has a promising new client, Mr. Luengo Molofololo, owner of the Kalahari Swoopers, the local football (soccer) team. He owns a big house, drives a huge Mercedes-Benz, and knows everyone. Unfortunately, he seems to think that women know only about cooking. Precious knows precious little about soccer and wonders how she can help. He's convinced there is a traitor who is throwing the games, but he cannot identify who it is. Soon Precious joins Mr. Molofololo and her foster son, Puso, at one of the games.
Meanwhile, Mr. Phuti Radi-phuti has hired Violet Sephotho to sell beds at the Double Comfort Furniture Shop. Mma Makutsi is wary due her past run-ins with Violet . . . but fears sharing her concerns with her fiancé. Matters look dire when she sees him driving Violet home from work on the first day.
Finally, Iris Sephotho comes for advice on how to decide between two men who don't know that they are both enjoying her company. Precious provides some Solomon-like wisdom that leads to a surprising turn of events.
As you can see the story is dominated by personal concerns rather than detective problems. If the story had had no detective problems, it would have been very enjoyable. The rich interactions between the two detectives are more than enough to keep you smiling for weeks.
Mr. McCall Smith also weaves in many little asides about conflict, battles, cars, chairs, and rain that stretch you into the real Botswana that Precious represents. It's delicious!
Bravo, Mr. McCall Smith!
on May 19, 2009
Devoted fans of Mma Ramotswe will love this latest instalment in the series. Mostly it's about love. Of course there are puzzles to solve, but the suspense on the soccer field, the furniture store, the trip to the scrap yard, and the late-night return of Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni is all about affairs of the heart. It's even a little bit racy, and Charlie the apprentice is drawn into the intrigue. Over all there are lessons in humanity, the calming presence of Botswana, and the gentle philosophy that goes down as smoothly as Mma Potokwane's fruitcake.