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4.0 out of 5 starsMen often fail to take finer points
Reviewed in the United States on December 12, 2017
Precious Ramotswe solves a number of problems in this book. It all starts one fine morning when Precious tells Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni "I have a feeling. It's difficult to say why, but I am sure that this will not be a quiet day." Indeed, it is not going to be uneventful. First, the two partners in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi, are asked to find out who a certain Indian woman really is, Mrs she is simply called, she just walked up the driveway to the clients' house, made herself at home, became familiar with the owners, they do not want to throw her out. Mma Makutsi is insisting on doing her share of interviewing and investigating and it takes all of Mma Ramotswe's skill to steer the investigation in the right direction. ""But don't you think you only take fluff off the shoulders of somebody you have known for some time?" Mma Ramotswe asked and Mma Makutsi simply replied "No,...I don't think that, Mma" Then there is the new business venture Mma Makutsi is undertaking - a restaurant, high-end with gourmet cuisine prepared by an accomplished chef and served by trained waiters - Phuti does, of course provide the necessary funds for the required building renovation and equipment, although his suggestions and questions about the staff are being ignored. Then, there is the case of the garage helper/mechanic let go by Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni. Precious takes him on, of course, to train as a detective and send him on an assignment. In the end she makes visits, eats generous slices of fruitcake, drinks tea and solves all problems with a minimal amount of exertion, but plenty of insight into the human mind - be it in Botswana or elsewhere. I love the series, although this book was a little too packed with problems.
5.0 out of 5 starsAnother Great Book by McCall Smith
Reviewed in the United States on May 9, 2015
Mma Makutsi is opening a restaurant, one that she hopes will take Gabarone by storm. It'll be the best cafe that the town has seen and it will be patronized, of course, by the most handsome of men and glamorous of women. Things seem to fall perfectly in place right from the beginning. The workmen appear on time and do their jobs quickly; her lawyer knows a brilliant chef who is willing to come work for the cafe and bring along a waiter and waitress too. Most importantly, Phuti and Mma Ramotswe are as supportive as they can be.
Things aren't going quite so well for Charlie. Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni's workshop isn't making as much money as it used to and he's forced to get rid of one of his assistants. Unfortunately, Charlie, who has still to finish his training, is the one that must be let go. Though the detective agency isn't doing any better than the auto shop, Mma Ramotswe decides to take Charlie on as an "apprentice assistant detective." She knows the young man has a good heart and lives in poor conditions with a large family. Her tender soul can't see him disappointed at failure. Luckily, the timing is just right. A new case has been brought to the agency. A woman with no recollection of her identity or origin needs help in figuring out who she is. Mma Ramotswe hopes Charlie can learn the principles of detection on this intriguing case.
Success in the restaurant and detection fields isn't easy, though. Mma Makutsi and Charlie both find themselves in disheartening circumstances before too long. Will the goodness that seems to follow Mma Ramotswe and her friends once again triumph? Or are Charlie's short career as a detective and Mma Makutsi's short stint as a restaurateur going to end before they've even begun?
After so many installations of this series, you'd think one would become tired of it. Not so! Unlike other series authors, McCall Smith has retained a freshness and vitality in his writing that makes every book unique and special. Not formulaic or predictable, each is a lovely reminder of good things and an encouragement to search for the kind of peace and understanding that Mma Ramotswe (and her late father, the great Obed Ramotswe) believe in.
Just plodding along is how I vied the mood of the book.
After 15 books I'm growing tired of the characters.
Neither Grace, Precious, or JLB have advanced from the experiences of living. The conversations are just as exhausting as ever. The dialogue is awful. No great thinking going on here. The bickering with clients, the put downs between staff....none of it is good business (not even for a 97%) practices.
When characters start to disappoint it is time to move on. Often we just stay with series, because they are just series and we feel we are abandoning the author and the characters if we move on.
I think in this instance McCall Smith has abandoned his readers. We learn nothing new about Botswana (he rehashes the same stuff), we get no sense of time (do they have cellphones yet? how old is Precious' car) we are just stuck.
They aren't idiots. Yet, in the Handsome Man's Deluxe Cafe Grace never even checks a reference on anyone, she like most restaurantuers, have no idea what opening a restaurant will be like. She's not even accustomed to fine dining, or dining out period. What a joke. Surely, they would have the sense to do some research! What about permits? She deserved to fail.
How did Precious solve the latest amnesia case? Darned if we know. There were no clues to help even an armchair amature detective. Charlie couldn't figure it out, and neither could the readers. Were we surprised? I can only speak for myself. I was disappointed.
How the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency remains in business is beyond this former reader. Maybe the books should focus more on Mma Potokwane since she seems to solve all the problems and have all the answers, and all it takes is fruitcake.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 23, 2014
Business is not actually booming for the detective agency or for the garage business and Mr J L B Maketoni can no longer afford to pay both his staff and Charlie has to go. Precious has taken on a case that she is really not at all sure about and her assistant - now partner - Grace Makutsi has decided to open a café.
Will things improve for all the businesses concerned and can Precious solve the case of the woman who apparently has lost her memory without getting into trouble with the immigration authorities. There are plenty of life lessons to be learned in this thoughtful but amusing episode in the life of the number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.
I do like this series which are really modern morality tales. Yes the writing is simple and straightforward but how to get on with the other people in your life is the same however sophisticated and grown up you think you are.
I didn't think this latest story was quite as good as previous ones but then sometimes they improve on second reading. I always find them amusing with plenty of food for thought and insight into human behaviour and motivation, If you want something gentle in the mystery line then you could do worse than read this. While it helps to understand the series characters if you've read previous books in the series they don't have to be read in order and can be read as standalone novels.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 11, 2016
I have read all the other books in this series and been charmed and seduced each time. One might wonder how Alexander McCall Smith can find material for this small group of characters in a small city in Botswana. For each new book I have been prepared that this might be an attempt to cash in on the previous success with double spaced lines. But no, there are always some new twists and turns and solutions that warm, charm and sometimes make you cry. And the double spaced lines, I welcome them actually - they make it easier to read. Thanks! I have a feeling that many readers are the same age as the author and share his moral/ethical outlook. Don’t we all miss and long for good manners and the civility of yesterday. The author is always true to his characters and his sense of humour and style - he writes like a primitive painter paints - accounts for the success of these books. When you look at the reviews, a majority of the reviewers are very favourable. A very small percentage give unfavourable reviews. I will certainly keep buying Alexander McCall Smith's books as long as he keeps writing them.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 16, 2015
I used to really look forward to another 'No1 Ladies Detective agency' novel but have found the last few to be lacking. I am not sure if Mr McCall Smith has run out of ideas or if he has become disenchanted with this theme? The earlier books were full of atmosphere. I felt like I wanted to visit Botswana and drink tea with the ladies but, this latest book especially, had none of the warmth of the earlier novels. I feel I will not be reading another.
I've recently undergone major surgery and developed complications forcing me to be completely bed bound, flat on my back. My soul was feeling lost and restless. Fortunately, just before coming into hospital, I'd downloaded this Mma Ramotswe and this calm, elegant, magical story full of kindness, love of one's neighbour and doing the right thing under difficult circumstances has made me once again, rejoice inside and accept my circumstances.
Thank you Mma and Alexander McCall Smith. I can face the next two days lying down flat in bed with a smile in my heart
3.0 out of 5 starsBeginning to lose the plot in this series
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 30, 2017
Another one in the series, not as good as the early ones where more time was spent on detective work and the different strands of the story. Now there is too much time spent on incidental stuff and in this one in particular the stories within are unsubstantial and have no depth and there is too much repetition of things that have already happened in the characters private lives (this has been a recurring theme in recent books - it's almost like he needs to pad the books out because he lacks really good stories). A Mc S really needs to go back to the basics for this series rather than churning out sub-standard novels for this series.