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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

TEA TIME FOR THE TRADITIONALLY BUILT--A New #1 Ladies' Detective Agency winner!

Like a meeting with an old friend I opened Alexander McCall Smith's latest installment to his #1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, Tea Time for the Traditionally Built. It is glorious to read about Precious Ramotswe's latest intrigues and to reacquaint myself with the novels' other characters—all introduced and further developed through the last nine books.

If you haven't delved into the lives of the only female detective in Botswana and her friends and relations, you're missing something quite wonderful. These books are a delight. Precious knows she cannot solve all the world's mysteries and headaches, but her mission is to help people solve the everyday problems that occur in all our lives. As she does, she acts with a wisdom, kindness, and understanding of humanity that is both touching and interesting. Read these books; you will not be bored.

At the center of Tea Time for the Traditionally Built as with all the other novels in the series, is the importance of core values: family, loyalty, honesty, friendship, and love of country. Set in Botswana, the characters' love of their country and pride in their history inspires them, helps set the tone of their interactions, aids in solving the problems brought before them at the #1 Ladies' Detective Agency, and gives the rest of us an insight into aspects of Botswanan culture. Each book ends with a diamond shaped picture spelling Africa. There is an appreciation for fulfilling life's basic needs and appreciating everyday beauties.

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built is not a sappy book. The #1 Ladies' Detective Agency attracts interesting clients. A local football team owner, a strong-minded man, hires the agency to solve a problem with his team. His winning team has become a losing team, and he wants to know why. With the most unusual case so far for this very non-sports-minded detective, Precious attacks as she approaches all the others. She is methodical, and she listens (a dying art) so she gets to know and understand people.

Even when people aren't real clients but friends, it's intriguing to see how we all have mysteries to solve in our lives and to understand that what we observe on the surface may be a ruse to hide the truth—good and bad. We learn more about the tender feelings between Precious and Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni. In the last book we learned a bit more about Charley the apprentice, and in this book we gain insight into Fanwell, the younger, shyer apprentice. McCall crafts characters with layers we can peel away as we journey through the world he creates. He always hints at the possibilities hidden beneath the next layer. The evolution of Mma Makutsi and Phuti's relationship continues. Even one very different “character,” the little white van, takes on a new importance which, I suspect, will be very important in the next novel.

I do love these novels. Can you tell? As such an avid fan, I tried the HBO series but must confess that my imagination's creations did not jive with the series' creators. That's my non-recommendation. Get your own imagination in gear, and you'll see some wonderful things.

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