Have you read anything by Alexander McCall Smith? I had not, until my friend Barb introduced me to the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, and I'm so glad she did! McCall Smith has written over 100 books, but he is best known for this series which has risen to the top of bestseller lists around the world. It would be a bit of a stretch to assign them to the "mystery" genre, rather they are charming tales of a woman who is a "self-proclaimed" private detective. She is not just any woman... she is Precious Ramotswe. a Botswana woman "of traditional build".. a charming character if ever there was one. She is delightful, dealing with daily issues and challenges with intelligence and intuition - after all what more do you need, says Mma Ramotswe? She feels her mission is to help people with the problems in their lives, not to solve crimes.
Very soon after opening her agency in Gaborone, she is hired to find a missing husband, uncover a con man and track a wayward daughter, but her biggest challenge in this first novel is the case of a missing boy, only eleven years old, who she fears has been snatched by witch doctors. She quickly won me over, solving each case with her clever ways, common sense and keen observation.
I love Smith's writing style. Straightforward simple prose, sprinkled with beautiful descriptive passages such as this: "Then, just past the Mochudi turnoff, the sun came up, rising over the wide plains that stretched away towards the course of the Limpopo. Suddenly it was there, smiling on Africa, a slither of a golden red ball, inching up, floating effortlessly free of the horizon to dispel the last wisps of morning mist." and "She stopped the van an hour later, beside a dry riverbed. They were completely alone. with not even a fire from a remote cattle post to break the darkness of the night. Only the starlight fell on them, an attenuated silver light, falling on the sleeping figure of the boy, wrapped in a sack which she had in the back of the van, his head upon her arm, his breathing regular, his hand resting gently on hers, and Mma Ramotswe herself, whose eyes were open, looking up into the night sky until the sheer immensity of it tipped her gently into sleep." The story line is light and humourous, not complicated, and it moves along at a good pace so you don't lose interest. In fact, I found myself often thinking "I'll read just one more chapter.''
The second book Tears of the Giraffe carries on smoothly from the first novel. Although there are more cases to solve, more of this book is centered around Mma Ramotswe and her relationship with Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, the local mechanic who keeps her old van running smoothly. They become engaged and it is amusing to watch their relationship develop. Among her cases to solve are a wandering wife, and the long lost son of an American woman.
If you enjoy an entertaining story with "real" characters, you should investigate this series. I find it a refreshing positive change from what we hear of Africa in the news. I can hardly wait to get into the third book in the series, Morality for Beautiful Girls.
"I became a book lover at a very young age. Books taught me that there were different lives and beautiful things." ~ Rene Denfeld