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Director’s Notebook July, 2008 There are nine of them now;...

Tue, 07/08/2008 - 4:21pm -- KChin




Director’s Notebook

July, 2008

There are nine of them now; these wonderful stories in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Series written by Alexander McCall Smith.  The series began some years ago with the first novel entitled The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, featuring Precious Ramotswe.  Set in Botswana, the stories are not your traditional mystery novels, in that they are short on mystery but long on the philosophy, problems, humor, values, and humanity of Precious Ramotswe and her family and friends.

Precious Ramose, known more commonly as Mma Romatswe, is the centerpiece of each novel.  As the founder of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, Mma Ramotswe does not normally track down hardened criminals. Instead she concerns herself with helping others solve vexing problems and finding answers to questions they cannot answer themselves, such as “is my husband being faithful to me? ” or “how can I prove my innocence when my employer has falsely accused me?”

Mma Ramotswe describes herself complacently as being of “traditional build” which apparently some men in Botswana find attractive and comfortable; although others, disgruntled when Mma Ramostswe gets too close to the truth, have been known to call her fat.  She is happily married to Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni who adores her in his own quiet way and allows her to run her business out of his auto repair shop, Thokweng Road Speedy Motors. With Mma Ramose in the detective business is her secretary and assistant Mma Makutsi whose sometimes caustic view on life is greatly tempered by Mma Ramotswe’s more tolerant, philosophical one.

In the latest in the series entitled The Miracle at Speedy Motors, Mma Ramostswe is charged with the difficult case of helping an orphaned woman find her true family.  Meanwhile Mma Makutsi gets herself into a distressful situation when a generous gift given her by her fiancé is accidentally destroyed in a rainstorm. To make matters worse, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni appears to be falling for the schemes of an unscrupulous doctor.

As in all the stories in this addictive series, Mma Ramostswe finds a way to solve all the problems, or at least to calmly accept whatever cannot be changed.  There is a sense of quiet appreciation for the everyday “miracles” of life that Mma Ramostswe never fails to appreciate, be it a soothing cup of red bush tea in the afternoon, or a glimpse of a herd of cattle as seen from her tiny white van, as she makes her way back to the village of her youth.  There is no way anyone reading the books in the No. 1 ladies’ Detective Series could fail to be moved by the beauty of Africa, or not be inspired by Mma Ramotswe’s simple but enduring values that guide her every decision and action.

And now there are nine! If, like me, you’re a big fan of Mma Ramatswe, you’ll be glad to hear that.  If you haven’t read any of the No. 1 ladies’ Detective Series, what are you waiting for?

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