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by Alexander McCall Smith
Recorded Books, April 2003
Unabridged audio pages
ISBN: 1402541783

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

The fourth, and latest, of the series featuring the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency is a winner. It is hard to imagine that a mystery series can be uplifting and thought provoking but this series manages to consistently do just that. The author, though a man, is able to write very effectively as if he were a woman and seems to understand their thoughts and feelings. Perhaps this is why Mma Ramotswe seems so realistic.

The thought Mma Ramotswe puts into the care of the troubled Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, along with the patience and understanding she demonstrates even after he is well, demonstrates once again why everyone who knows her calls her a "good" person. She is troubled by her adopted son having killed a small bird with a sling shot, and by her crippled adopted daughter being teased at school for having no mother. The lengths she will go to find the answer to problems that puzzle her and the understanding she shows, when applying what she learns, actually allows the reader to take away more from reading the book than just the enjoyment of reading.

Now that Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni is back at the garage, he and Mma Ramotswe are concerned about Mma Makutsi and how they will be able to keep her fully employed. Surprisingly it is Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni who dreams up the idea of introducing her to other men so she could find a potential husband. Of course, this is a case of 'I have a brilliant idea - now I want you to carry it out' when he suggests that Mma Ramotswe brooch the subject with Mma Makutsi. The scene here is so believable that you feel for both women in this awkward situation. However, Mma Ramotswe once again has one of her wonderful sayings "Happiness is found in the head. The heart is the place where love happens."

Mma Makutsi, also concerned about her future career, decides to open a typing school for men. She feels there are a lot of business men using computers that don't know how to type and are too uncomfortable to attend the typing college, which has mainly female students. Again, the author is brilliant in coming up with how this virtually penniless person can afford to open her own business. It is so successful that she almost got more than a business career.

Just after the little confabulation concerning the need to seek a husband, Mma Makutsi changes the subject and tells Mma Ramotswe that there is now another detective agency in town. She is shown the ad for the Satisfaction Guaranteed Detective Agency and finds it was down right insulting. It stated "Don't take any chances! Entrust your enquiries to a MAN!" Immediately she and Mma Makutsi drive over to inspect this new agency and introduce themselves. From first to last they are ladies; however, the reader can tell, as can Mma Ramotswe, that this man is a charlatan. It is from one of his disgruntled clients that she gets her last case. One she would ultimately wish she hadn't been given.

Probably the funniest part of the book is when the youngest apprentice, who has gotten religion, invites Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, Mma Ramotswe, Mma Makutsi, and the older apprentice to come hear him give a talk at his church. When these four "visitors" are called "sinners" and told to confess their sins before everyone, what happens next is pure brilliance on Mma Ramotswe's part and will have the reader laughing long after the book is finished.

We learn much more about Mma Makutsi's life in this book and she is rapidly becoming as strong a character as Mma Ramotswe. Watching the author flesh out what had been a minor, but promising character in the beginning, makes the book even more interesting.

In this latest novel we learn more about the individuals that Mma Ramotswe knows on a personal basis and the day-to-day contacts and descriptions of the town make the reader feel as if they too are living there right in the middle of it all.

I enjoy each book more and more and can only say "Bravo . . . Encore, Encore!"

Reviewed by Ginger K. W. Stratton, August 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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