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by Alexander McCall Smith
Recorded Books, August 2003
Unabridged audio pages
ISBN: 1402541775

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TEARS OF THE GIRAFFE is the second in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. The first, THE NO. 1 LADIES' DETECTIVE AGENCY, was so good that the second had quite an act to follow, and it shows. Gone are the delightful descriptions of the African countryside which swept the reader away in the first novel. On the other hand, although the number of cases has dwindled, some are more interesting and detailed.

Mma Ramotswe and Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni finally get engaged and it is delightful to see how Mma Ramotswe maneuvers the very reserved Mr. Matekoni into proposing and buying her a diamond ring. Little does she know that, due to his shyness, he unwittingly becomes the foster parent of two orphans, which means now she will be not only a new wife, but also a new mother.

>From the time of Mr. Matekoni's chance meeting with a 12 year old cripple

girl to the delivery of the girl and her 5 year old brother to Mr. Matekoni's house, the reader comes to understand and become fond of him. The writer does a beautiful job of taking the reader through every emotion from sadness, perplexity, and happiness, followed by anxiety, as Mr. Matekoni finds he really likes being a father, but, how is he to tell Mma Ramotswe without losing her? His first day with the children is a real treat and brings back memories of the joys of childhood in everyone. Yet, what will Mma Ramotswe say as she sees him with these strange children? When she does, the author's treatment of this scene is wonderful.

Back at the agency, an American woman, Mrs. Curtain, hires Mma Ramotswe. Mrs. Curtain virtually tells her life story before getting to the point, which is that she wants Mma Ramotswe to see if she can find out what happened to Mrs. Curtain's son, who she has not heard from in ten years. Mrs. Curtain feels sure he is dead, however, she would like to know if that is true and, if so, how did he die. The unfolding of the story is well done. The search takes Mma Ramotswe to the site of a commune, long since deserted. Her interviews with some of the past workers in the commune add more to the mystery for her to solve than she started with. It takes her becoming a blackmailer herself, the moral aspects of which she'll think about later. She learns more than either she or Mrs. Curtain anticipated. The closing of the case is surprising and poignant.

In "Tears", the secretary, Mma Makutsi, has a more prominent role and is promoted to "Assistant Private Detective". However, Mr. McCall Smith seems to be experimenting with her character. It is hard to picture her and there isn't the consistency of habits, etc. to allow the reader to feel as attached to her as to the other characters. She has potential, and hopefully, by the third novel we will know exactly what to expect from her. She is given her first case which is of the butcher with the fashionable wife. The butcher, Mr. Baduli, loves his wife and is very proud that she dresses so fashionably. However, where is the money coming from and why does she come home so late at night? Does she have a lover? It looks like Mma Makutsi has solved the case before Mr. Baduli can leave the office; however, there seems to be more that he isn't telling. By the time the case is concluded Mma Makutsi and Mma Ramotswe realize that sometimes it is best not to tell the whole truth. The more important thing is to not lie but try to make everyone happy. Their solution is perfect.

Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni's maid finds that her life will drastically change with Mr. Matekoni's engagement. She begins to think it over and it is fascinating to watch the seed of resentment grow and to see what her life is really like while Mr. Matekoni is at work. Wild with jealousy she gets an illegal gun from one of her lovers. The progression of events is completely unexpected.

Mma Ramotswe is always thinking and sometimes she comes out with surprising comments that let the reader know something what kind of person she is inside...comments that seem to just stop you for a moment. A few are: "Good people go to heaven, but bad people go to Nigeria"; "If everybody had a maid or gardener, then they would be feeding those people's families. Not to employ them was selfish." Last, and by far the best, "A giraffe has nothing else to give - only tears. We all must give something."

I enjoyed the book very much and still am amazed at Ms. Lecat's ability to produce different voices for all the characters, no matter how old or young, male or female. I look forward to the next in the series. I've become so attached to the main characters that they run away with the book and the mysteries or cases take backstage.

Reviewed by Ginger K. W. Stratton, August 2003

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