The Limpompo Academy of Private Detection (The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency: #13) :
In this latest episode in the beloved, best-selling series, the kindest and best detective in Botswana faces a tricky situation when her personal and professional lives become entangled.
Precious Ramotswe is haunted by a repeated dream: a vision of a tall, strange man who waits for her beneath an acacia tree. Odd as this is, she's far too busy to worry about it. The best apprentice at Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors is in trouble with the law and stuck with the worst lawyer in Gaborone. Grace Makutsi and Phuti Radiphuti are building the house of their dreams, but their builder is not completely on the up and up. And, most shockingly, Mma Potokwane, defender of Botswana's weak and downtrodden, has been dismissed from her post as matron at the orphan farm. Can the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency help restore the beloved matron to her rightful position?
As wealthy and powerful influences at the orphan farm become allied against their friend, help arrives from an unexpected visitor: the tall stranger from Mma Ramotswe's dreams, who turns out to be none other than the estimable Clovis Andersen, author of the No. 1 Ladies' prized manual, The Principles of Private Detection. Together, Mma Ramotswe, Mma Makutsi, and their teacher-turned-colleague help right this injustice and in the process discover something new about being a good detective.
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April 03, 2012
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Excerpt from The Limpompo Academy of Private Detection (The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency: #13) by Alexander McCall Smith
In Botswana, home to the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency for the problems of ladies, and others, it is customary--one might say very customary--to enquire of the people whom you meet whether they have slept well. The answer to that question is almost inevitably that they have indeed slept well, even if they have not, and have spent the night tossing and turning as a result of the nocturnal barking of dogs, the activity of mosquitoes or the prickings of a bad conscience. Of course, mosquitoes may be defeated by nets or sprays, just as dogs may be roundly scolded; a bad conscience, though, is not so easily stifled. If somebody were to invent a spray capable of dealing with an uncomfortable conscience, that person would undoubtedly do rather well--but perhaps might not sleep as soundly as before, were he to reflect on the consequences of his invention. Bad consciences, it would appear, are there for a purpose: to make us feel regret over our failings. Should they be silenced, then our entirely human weaknesses, our manifold omissions, would become all the greater--and that, as Mma Ramotswe would certainly say, is not a good thing.
Mma Ramotswe was fortunate in having an untroubled con-science, and therefore generally enjoyed undisturbed sleep. It was her habit to take to her bed after a final cup of red bush tea at around ten o'clock at night. Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, her husband and by common consent the finest mechanic in all Botswana, would often retire before her, particularly if he had had a tiring day at work. Mechanics in general sleep well, as do many others whose day is taken up with physically demanding labour. So by the time that Mma Ramotswe went to bed, he might already be lost to this world, his breathing deep and regular, his eyes firmly closed to the bedside light that he would leave for his wife to extinguish.
She would not take long to go to sleep, drifting off to thoughts of what had happened that day; to images of herself drinking tea in the office or driving her van on an errand; to the picture of Mma Makutsi sitting upright at her desk, her large glasses catching the light as she held forth on some issue or other. Or to some memory of a long time ago, of her father walking down a dusty road, holding her hand and explaining to her about the ways of cattle--a subject that he knew so well. When a wise man dies, there is so much history that is lost: that is what they said, and Mma Ramotswe knew it to be true. Her own father, the late Obed Ramotswe, had taken so much with him, but had also left much behind, so many memories and sayings and observations, that she, his daughter, could now call up and cherish as she waited for the soft arms of sleep to embrace her.
Mma Ramotswe did not remember her dreams for very long once she had woken up. Occasionally, though, an egregiously vivid dream might make such an impression that it lodged in her memory, and that is what happened that morning. It was not in any way a bad dream; nor was it a particularly good dream, the sort of dream that makes one feel as if one has been vouchsafed some great mystical insight; it was, rather, one of those dreams that seems to be a clear warning that something special is about to happen. If a dream involves lottery tickets and numbers, then its meaning is clear enough. This dream was not like that, and yet it left Mma Ramotswe feeling that she had somehow been given advance notice of something out of the ordinary, something important.
In this dream she was walking along a path in the stretch of bush immediately behind Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, the building that the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency shared with Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni's garage. She was not sure where she was going, but this did not seem to matter as Mma Ramotswe felt happy just to be walking along it with no great sense of having to reach a destination. And why should one not walk along a path, particularly a comfortable path, without any idea of getting anywhere?
She turned a corner and found herself faced with a large acacia tree, its foliage extending out like the canopy of a commodious umbrella. To dream of trees is to . . . to long for trees, and finding herself under the shade of this tree would have been enough to make the dream a satisfactory one. But there was more to it. Underneath the tree, standing in such a position that the mottled shade of the leaves all but obscured his face, was a tall, well-built man. He now stepped forward, held out a hand and said, "I have come at last, Mma Ramotswe."
And that was the point at which Mma Ramotswe awoke. The encounter with this stranger had not been threatening in any way; there had been nothing in his demeanour that was suggestive of hostility, and she had not felt in the slightest bit anxious. As for what he said, she had simply thought, even if she had not had the time to say it, Yes, it has been a long time.
For a few minutes after waking, she had lain still in bed, mulling over the dream. Had the man been her father, then the dream would have been easy to understand. She knew that she dreamed of her father from time to time, which was only to be expected, given that not a day went past, not one day, when she did not think of that great and good man, the late Obed Ramotswe. If you think of somebody every day, then you can be sure you will dream of him at night; but it was not him whom she encountered under that acacia tree--that was very clear. It was somebody quite different, somebody she sensed was from a long way away. But who could that be? Mma Ramotswe did not really know anybody from a long way away, unless one counted Francistown or Maun, where she knew a number of people. But those towns, although several hundred miles from Gaborone, are both in Botswana, and nowhere in Botswana was the abode of strangers. That was because Botswana, to those who lived there, was home, and familiar, and comfortable, and no place in such a country will seem far away. No, this man under the tree was from somewhere outside the country, and that was unusual and puzzling and would have to be thought about at some length.