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Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Life is good. When I finished Blue Shoes and Happiness, the novel I believed was the last of the Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, just to be sure, I linked to Amazon. Lo and behold, a new one came out on April 23rd!!! Susan did tell me she thought there was a new one in the works. Thanks Susan! Must have been done as a result of The Secret (see the review under the Books lable). (You'll only get that in-joke if you've read it.) Anyway, I ordered it along with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Let me quit meandering and get back to the matter at hand.

In some ways, I found Blue Shoes and Happiness the weakest novel in the series. While I still enjoyed it, there is not nearly as much character development as in prior books, although Alexander McCall Smith allows Mma Makutsi to be more independent, and, indeed, critical of her boss, Precious Ramotswe. She is also learning about relating to her fiancĂ©, Phuti Radiphuti, sometimes a bit difficult for this independent woman. The apprentices are less prominent as are Puso and Motholeli, the young children from Mma Potokwane’s orphan farm. Even Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni takes a back seat (that’s a hint).

Weak, however, is relative in this series. I enjoyed it, and I’m ready for the “new last” one, The Good Husband of Zebra Drive. There are some interesting cases to solve here, and as usual, Mma Ramotswe uses her common sense coupled with Clovis Anderson’s wisdom to solve them in her unique manner. There are also glimpses into culture here, and some comments on the clash between new Africa and old, something upon which Smith often touches. That is not to say that old is always better, but leaving it behind is often more difficult than it seems and sometimes a source of national embarrassment.

For readers, getting a glimpse of another culture is vastly rewarding. At one point, Mma Ramotswe, visiting the National Park in Mokolodi, meets a dying American woman. A friend photographs both of them, and “The woman reached for her [Precious] hand, and clasped it briefly in her own…Mma Ramotswe whispered …The Lord will look after you, my sister, and then she stood up and said goodbye, in Setswana, because that is the language that her heart spoke.” As I said, weak is relative.

In addition to its serious nature, humor is never forgotten. At one point, Precious has an interesting run-in with a very poisonous snake. Her story becomes very important later as she solves a case.

I also enjoyed a conversation between Precious and Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni:
“Is it not strange that men and women think about such very different things? There you are thinking about mechanical matters, and I am sitting her thinking about tea.”
“Yes,” said Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni. “It is strange.”

Now that I’ve told you more than I usually do about a book, I’m wondering if my initial reaction is a bit harsh. I like this one too, and I’ve got The Good Husband of Zebra Drive waiting in the wings.
Just a note: They've cast the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, so we should be seeing it soon in theaters. How will they do Precious?
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