In the newest addition to the universally beloved No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, the charming and ever-resourceful Precious Ramotswe finds herself overly beset by problems. She is already busier than usual at the detective agency when added to her concerns are a strange intruder in her house on Zebra Drive and the baffling appearance of a pumpkin. And then there is Mma Makutsi, who decides to treat herself to dance lessons, only to be partnered with a man who seems to have two left feet. Nor are things running quite as smoothly as they usually do at Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors. Mma Ramotswe's husband, the estimable Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, is overburdened with work even before one of his apprentices runs off with a wealthy woman.
In this sixth entry in McCall Smith's consistently delightful series, Botswana detective Precious Ramotswe, the traditionally built-and newly married-owner of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, is saddled with a surfeit of challenging cases and personal crises. There has been an intruder in her home (he managed to escape, but left a telltale pair of trousers in his wake). And the levelheaded sleuth is flustered by an encounter with a man from her past. Meanwhile, Mma Ramotswe's husband, master mechanic Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, is neck-deep in work after the resignation of one of his apprentices, who has become romantically entangled with a married woman (Mma Ramotswe and assistant detective Grace Makutsi slyly gather the scurrilous details). Scotsman McCall Smith, who was born in what is now Zimbabwe, renders colorful characters with names that trip off the tongue. Among the new arrivals: Mma Makutsi's new suitor and dance partner, Phuti Radiphuti, a stuttering furniture salesman with two left feet; and Mr. Polopetsi, a wrongfully imprisoned pharmacist Mma Ramotswe deems worthy of a second chance. As always, when troubles are brewing, nothing puts things in perspective like time spent on the verandah with a cup of bush tea. Amid the hilarious scenarios and quiet revelations are luminous descriptions of Botswana, land of wide-open spaces and endless blue skies. The prolific McCall Smith dispenses tales from the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency at a rate of one per year (he's also author of a second detective series featuring Scottish-American moral philosopher Isabel Dalhousie). That's good news for loyal fans, who eagerly await new adventures with Precious Ramotswe. Agent, Robin Straus. (Apr. 19) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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April 17, 2005
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Excerpt from In the Company of Cheerful Ladies (The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency: #6) by Alexander McCall Smith
Honesty, Tea, and Things in the Kitchen
Mma Ramotswe was sitting alone in her favourite cafe, on the edge of the shopping centre at the Gaborone end of the Tlokweng Road. It was a Saturday, the day that she preferred above all others, a day on which one might do as much or as little as one liked, a day to have lunch with a friend at the President Hotel, or, as on that day, to sit by oneself and think about the events of the week and the state of the world. This cafe was a good place to be, for several reasons. Firstly, there was the view, that of a stand of eucalyptus trees with foliage of a comforting dark green which made a sound like the sea when the wind blew through the leaves. Or that, at least, was the sound which Mma Ramotswe imagined the sea to make. She had never seen the ocean, which was far away from land-locked Botswana; far away across the deserts of Namibia, across the red sands and the dry mountains. But she could imagine it when she listened to the eucalyptus trees in the wind and closed her eyes. Perhaps one day she would see it, and would stand on the shore and let the waves wash over her feet. Perhaps.
The other advantage which this cafe had was the fact that the tables were out on an open verandah, and there was always something to watch. That morning, for instance, she had seen a minor dispute between a teenage girl and her boyfriend-an exchange of words which she did not catch but which was clear enough in its meaning-and she had witnessed a woman scrape the side of a neighbouring car while she tried to park. The woman had stopped, quickly inspected the damage, and had then driven off. Mma Ramotswe had watched this incredulously, and had half-risen to her feet to protest, but was too late: the woman's car had by then turned the corner and disappeared and she did not even have time to see its number-plate.
She had sat down again and poured herself another cup of tea. It was not true that such a thing could not have happened in the old Botswana-it could-but it was undoubtedly true that this was much more likely to happen today. There were many selfish people about these days, people who seemed not to care if they scraped the cars of others or bumped into people while walking on the street. Mma Ramotswe knew that this was what happened when towns became bigger and people became strangers to one another; she knew too that this was a consequence of increasing prosperity, which, curiously enough, just seemed to bring out greed and selfishness. But even if she knew why all this happened, it did not make it any easier to bear. The rest of the world might become as rude as it wished, but this was not the way of things in Botswana and she would always defend the old Botswana way of doing things.