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HALL OF FAMEon June 16, 2006
This is book seven in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, and although it doesn't shine as brilliantly as book one, it's still as delightfully amusing as ever.

Mma Ramotswe of course remains the traditionally-built central character, but the other characters also come into their own. Mma Makutsi again steals a little thunder from her employer, and even Assistant-Assistant Detective Polopetsi gets in on the action this time. McCall Smith divides the story into little anecdotes, blending them throughout the book until he sorts it all out at the end.

A new advice columnist appears on the scene and becomes an instant hit, even though Mma Ramotswe is of the opinion that her replies could use a little more effort. Next, the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency gets a visit from an unwelcome guest, but thanks to the timely arrival of the manager of the Mokolodi Game Reserve and a cup of tea, everything soon goes back to normal. Well, almost normal, except that Mma Ramotswe decides that she may be a little TOO traditionally built, and takes the necessary steps to have this rectified.

Mma Makutsi feels that she has ruined her chances of marriage when she expresses her opinion on a controversial topic to her fiancé, but things seem a lot brighter after the purchase of a wonderful pair of high-heeled pointy-toed blue shoes.

Larceny, blackmail, witchcraft and fraud are all a part of "Blue Shoes and Happiness", another fine example of McCall Smith in his prime.

Amanda Richards
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HALL OF FAMEon September 3, 2006
Life in Botswana can become immensely complicated. The problem of finding parking space for a "tiny, white van" looms. A space that doesn't have aggressive posts nearby, for favourite. The reason the van sags on the driver's side is a different issue, however important. A fiance fearful of forceful feminism must be handled diplomatically. A "To-do" list includes shopping for shoes. A food thief must be dealt with because a job is at stake. Oh, yes, and there's a cobra slumbering away under one of the desks in the office of The Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.

Precious Ramotswe's life addresses such complexities on a daily basis. Even at the worst of times, she must maintain her cool. That's not always easy during the dry season when even the sunrise, when she likes to walk in her garden, is already hot. Life can be further involved by heated exchanges. Mr J.L.B. Matekoni's apprentice, Charlie, provides one of these. Since the Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency shares space with Mr J.L.B. Matekoni's vehicle repair garage, Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, the opportunities for such discussions are many. Especially as Charlie is young and inexperienced. And a man. Other complexities are more difficult to define, such as the pervasive feeling of discomfort among the staff of the Mokolodi Game Reserve. The Reserve is run by a good man, who is sensitive to his employees' feelings. But he's white and lacks the proper knowledge to deal with the issue. Mr Polopetsi, who orbits uncertainly between the garage and the Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, has the knowledge and applies a solution. Is it the proper one?

Clearly, if you're looking for fast-paced action by he-man private investigators or cunning "wimmin" who outthink the most devious wrong-doer, this is not the book for you. However, if you'd like to follow a perceptive and perspecacious pair of personable people, Mma Ramotswe and her "assistant detective" Mma Grace Makutsi, you should give this book a serious look. Long-time fans will pick it up without a second thought. Why should the new reader be introduced to these two ladies and their seemingly mundane lives? Values, for one reason. Mma Ramotswe spends much time reflecting on her father, Obed, who is "late", and on Botswana's peaceful beauty. This has led some reviewers to mistakenly believe these books merely represent a form of upbeat rural life, eschewing the convolutions and skirmishing of city living. Nothing could be further from the truth. The pair are masters of strategy and tactics in ways any general or international corporation head would envy. And should. If nothing else, the Ladies of the Detective Agency must reconcile the contradictions in being feminists and of "traditional build". They will also warn you never to seek advice from your shoes. They have their own agenda and are unlikely to be helpful . . . [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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Readers who have not yet discovered this distinguished series are kindly advised to begin with The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and work their way through the series in order of publication.

For those who have read the earlier books, Blue Shoes and Happiness will strike most as the best balanced and most rewarding book in this delightful series. The story has animal tales (one involving a cobra), several mysteries to resolve, challenges in Mma Makutsi's engagement, a detection training opportunity for Mr Polopetsi, more challenges with Mr J.L.B. Matekoni's apprentices, decisive purchases by Mr J.L.B. Matekoni and Mma Makutsi, and many reflections on the true nature of happiness by Precious Ramotswe. In particular, the story does a fine job of contrasting the older ways in Botswana with the newer, selfish ways.

I had the pleasure to hear Alexander McCall Smith speak during his recent book tour for the book, and I came away with the false impression that this story was mostly about Mma Makutsi and her new shoes. That episode is simply one of many that investigate the nature of a person's inability to resist certain temptations. Although this book comes close to being just a series of short stories, Alexander McCall Smith ties them together so masterfully that you rarely think of the book as anything other than a lovely flowing novel.

To me, the best part of this book was that it developed the characters more than most books in the series have done. Dr. Smith uses both dialogue and action well to help us appreciate who these characters are.

I thought that the mysteries were nicely rewarding. The solutions were not obvious (except in retrospect) and helped tie the overall themes of the book together. I have to believe that this book was influenced, in part, by readers' love of seeing Precious detect in the context of the truly unique setting of Botswana.

You have a great treat ahead of you. Order this book today!
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on November 17, 2014
A marvelous author and wonderful stories
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on April 4, 2016
Love the series
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