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Blue Shoes and Happiness Hardcover – Apr 18 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
The seventh entry in the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency series (after 2005's In the Company of Cheerful Ladies) reaffirms Smith's considerable gifts as a writer. His familiar characters offer further facets of their personalities, and their gentle, tolerant approach to life remains a refreshing contrast to most fictional figures, let alone those populating most mysteries. The author's love for his creations and for his Botswana setting are evident on every page. While the plot will be of secondary importance to fans of Precious Ramotswe, the "traditionally-built," self-taught private detective, and her assistant, Grace Makutsi, Smith presents them with several mysteries, including the search for the identity of a blackmailer and the source of malaise at a nearby game reserve. Ramotswe's intuition and understanding enable her to find the truth, while dispensing justice according to her own personal dictates. Even newcomers will be charmed by this wonderful novel, with its skillful blend of humor and pathos, and will doubtless rush to catch up with the earlier books.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
*Starred Review* In this seventh installment in McCall Smith's delightful No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, "traditionally built" Botswana detective Precious Ramotswe faces one of her toughest challenges: losing weight. Luckily, there are plenty of dilemmas to keep her mind off her girth: a nearby village that seems under the influence of witchcraft, a cook suspected of filching food for her increasingly portly spouse, and a newspaper advice columnist who's doing more damage than good. Readers become better acquainted with assistant detective Mma Grace Makutsi, best known for earning a stellar 97 percent grade at the Botswana Secretarial College. Mma Makutsi (who harbors a passion for fashionable shoes) fears her well-off fiance, furniture salesman and reformed stutterer Phuti Radiphuti, will leave her after learning she's a feminist. (He has a nightmare in which he's swept aside by a large feminist with a broom.) Scotsman McCall Smith renders brisk, seamless tales that are both wry and profound. Amidst the mayhem (like the cobra that slithers its way into the detective agency's headquarters) are eloquent descriptions of the serene African country that holds a special place in his heart. "In Botswana," he writes, "ties of kinship, no matter how attenuated by distance or time, linked one person to another, weaving across the country a human blanket of love and community." It is those ties and that sense of community that continue to make this series so appealing to both genre and nongenre readers. Allison Block
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.
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Most recent customer reviews
Alexander McCall Smith is consistently good. Revisiting these characters is balm for the soul. Insightful and compassionate; and occasionally very funny. Read morePublished 22 months ago by dragonworks