The eighth installment in the universally beloved, internationally bestselling series.
In the life of Mma Ramotswe - a woman duly proud of her fine traditional build - there is rarely a dull moment, and in her newest round of adventures, challenges and intrigues, the same certainly holds true. But one thing above all else is keeping her occupied - her estimable husband, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni. He has been hinting for some time now that he intends to do something special for their adopted daughter, Motholeli, and it seems that the time for this good deed has come. Of course, good deed or not, his plan is bound to hit some snags. And that's when he will undoubtedly consider himself doubly - perhaps even triply - lucky to be married to the ever-resourceful, ever-understanding Precious Ramotswe.
Smith once again combines a loving depiction of ordinary life in modern Botswana with memorable characters and an engaging mystery in the eighth installment in his beloved No. 1 Ladies Detective series (after Blue Shoes and Happiness). Dr. Cronje, who's half Xhosa and half Afrikaner, consults Smith's sleuth, the gentle and insightful Precious Ramotswe, because patients at his hospital who have occupied a particular bed have been dying mysteriously at the same time of day. Meanwhile, Mma Ramotswe's recently engaged assistant, Grace Makutsi, threatens to break their longstanding association. Mma Ramotswe must adjust their relationship in order to retain Mma Makutsi's services. The author's subtlety of touch and humane portrayal of figures at all levels of society will continue to win him new readers even as his deepening of the ties binding the main figures will satisfy those who have followed the lady detectives from their first recorded case. (Apr.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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April 16, 2007
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Excerpt from The Good Husband of Zebra Drive (The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency: #8) by Alexander McCall Smith
Chapter One: A Very Rude Person
It is useful, people generally agree, for a wife to wake up before her husband. Mma Ramotswe always rose from her bed an hour or so before Mr J.L.B. Matekoni--a good thing for a wife to do because it affords time to accomplish at least some of the day's tasks. But it is also a good thing for those wives whose husbands are inclined to be irritable first thing in the morning--and by all accounts there are many of them, rather too many, in fact. If the wives of such men are up and about first, the husbands can be left to be ill-tempered by themselves--not that Mr J.L.B. Matekoni was ever like that; on the contrary, he was the most good-natured and gracious of men, rarely raising his voice, except occasionally when dealing with his two incorrigible apprentices at Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors. And anybody, no matter how even-tempered he might be, would have been inclined to raise his voice with such feckless young men. This had been demonstrated by Mma Makutsi, who tended to shout at the apprentices for very little reason, even when one of them made a simple request, such as asking the time of day.
"You don't have to shout at me like that," complained Charlie, the older of the two. "All I asked was what time it was. That was all. And you shout four o'clock like that. Do you think I'm deaf?"
Mma Makutsi stood her ground. "It's because I know you so well," she retorted. "When you ask the time, it's because you can't wait to stop working. You want me to say five o'clock, don't you? And then you would drop everything and rush off to see some girl or other, wouldn't you? Don't look so injured. I know what you do."
Mma Ramotswe thought of this encounter as she hauled herself out of bed and stretched. Glancing behind her, she saw the inert form of her husband under the blankets, his head half covered by the pillow, which was how he liked to sleep, as if to block out the world and its noise. She smiled. Mr J.L.B. Matekoni had a tendency to talk in his sleep--not complete sentences, as one of Mma Ramotswe's cousins had done when she was young, but odd words and expressions, clues each of them to the dream he was having at the time. Just after she had woken up and while she was still lying there watching the light grow behind the curtains, he had muttered something about brake drums. So that was what he dreamed about, she thought--such were the dreams of a mechanic; dreams of brakes and clutches and spark plugs. Most wives fondly hoped that their husbands dreamed about them, but they did not. Men dreamed about cars, it would seem.
Mma Ramotswe shivered. There were those who imagined that Botswana was always warm, but they had never experienced the winter months there--those months when the sun seemed to have business elsewhere and shone only weakly on southern Africa. They were just coming to the end of winter now, and there were signs of the return of warmth, but the mornings and the evenings could still be bitterly cold, as this particular morning was. Cold air, great invisible clouds of it, would sweep up from the south-east, from the distant Drakensberg Mountains and from the southern oceans beyond; air that seemed to love rolling over the wide spaces of Botswana, cold air under a high sun.
Once in the kitchen, with a blanket wrapped about her waist, Mma Ramotswe switched on Radio Botswana in time for the opening chorus of the national anthem and the recording of cattle bells with which the radio started the day. This was a constant in her life, something that she remembered from her childhood, listening to the radio from her sleeping mat while the woman who looked after her started the fire that would cook breakfast for Precious and her father, Obed Ramotswe.