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I love Alexander McCall Smith's stories about Mma Ramotswe's No1 Ladies' Detective Agency and the varous people she and her husband Mr JLB Matekoni - in his own business, Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors - employ are all enjoyable characters in their own right, like a collection of broken winged birds, they are all helped back to self esteem and independence by the redoubtable Precious Ramotswe and her endearing husband.
The Double Comfort Safari Club is the latest of the novels in the series and the style remains the same - plodding, dependable and thoroughly enjoyable and un-putdownable!
McCall Smith makes me yearn to visit Botswana, where life seems to be conducted at a much slower pace, and where you might learn to once again be overwhelmed by the simple pleasures and beauty of life, and what nature has to offer.
His descriptions of the traditions, values and beliefs of the people in his stories are amusing as well as thought provoking.
As for the plot of this book - well, as usual Mma Ramotswe and her assistant Mma Makutsi have a challenging case to work on - in this instance, tracing the beneficiary of an American tourists' will - and along the way they encounter other challenges and problems - some closer to home than others.
I won't give too much away about what happens - suffice to say that, as in all these books, goodness, kindness and common sense win out in the end, and, as usual, this carefully crafted book restores your faith in humanity.
For me, for some reason, the plots of these books are never as important as the sum of the parts - a thoroughly "nice" read.
The Double Comfort Safari Club is the 11th book of the best selling series, the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith.
McCall Smith is the author of over 60 books on a wide range of subjects. A former Professor of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh, he has now also written the 44 Scotland Street and Isabel Dalhousie series, and more recently a new series Corduroy Mansions set in London. You can read installments of the 44 Scotland Street series in the paper edition of the Scotsman newspaper when they are serialized prior to book publication. The Corduroy Mansions series is serialised in the Daily Telegraph, in the paper edition and online also prior to book publication.
The book series is based upon the exploits of the character Mma Precious Ramotswe who owns and runs the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency in Gaborone, capital of Botswana. She has an assistant detective Mma Grace Makutsi, a graduate of the Botswana Secretarial College, where she obtained a pass mark of 97%. The agency shares premises with the Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors garage run by Mr J. L. B. Matekoni and his two apprentices Charlie and Fanwell. Mma Ramotswe and Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni are married and have two adopted children Motholeli and Puso who they met at the orphan farm run by their good friend Mma Potokwani. There are other minor characters that appear regularly such as Phuti Radiphuti (Mma Makutsi's fiancé), Mr Polopetsi who sweeps up in the garage and helps with some investigations and Violet Sephotho a rival of Mma Makutsi from the Botswana Secretarial College and gold-digger.
In this book the story revolves around a mysterious letter received from a lawyer in America regarding a deceased lady called Mrs. Grant, a great benefactor who leaves a legacy in her will. Four years prior to her death she visited Botswana and had been enthralled with the country, the people and their kindness. She visited the Okavango Delta where she was helped on her visit by a guide and his kindness was something that she wanted to reward, unfortunately his name and the name of the camp had slipped her memory. The task for Mma Ramotswe is to find the camp and the guide.
Meanwhile, Mr J L B Matekoni has a mystery of his own to solve. On his way to rescue Mma Mateleke, senior midwife and friend of Mma Ramotswe, whose stranded car is on the main highway in the middle of nowhere, he meets Mr Ntirang who has stopped to enquire about the stranded lady and despite claiming that he is traveling to Lobatse he turns back and heads for Gaborone. As Mma Mateleke is married to a respected preacher, the mechanic is perplexed by the man's behaviour.
A further case for the agency is undertaken when a Mr Kereleng, visits. He has met a woman and decides to put the ownership of a new house in the lady's name only to find that she becomes difficult.
Finally, an accident befalls Mr Phuti Radiphuti manager of the Double Comfort Furniture Shop. Mma Makutsi, his fiancée, has to deal with the fallout from the injury but also with Phuti's No 1 Aunty .
I particularly like the way the books tell the tales with a backdrop of a relatively poor African country, but a country that has it's society built on old-fashioned values of fairness and kindness. Technology and the modern world haven't caught up with the country yet and I like the fact that it's what we would call a bygone era of simple living.
The New York Times calls Mma Ramotswe the Miss Marple of Botswana, and it is certainly true that there are no shoot-outs, gruesome murders, car chases or sexual intrigue. The style of writing helps the story unfold gradually and each book has several threads and although they are not complex, I still want to read to the very end to find out how the stories are resolved.
I have read all of these books and heartily recommend them. All the stories unfold at an easy pace, perfect for a relaxing unwinding read.
The first ten books in the series are
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency
Tears of the Giraffe
Morality for Beautiful Girls
The Kalahari Typing School for Men
The Full Cupboard of Life
In the Company of Cheerful Ladies
Blue Shoes and Happiness
The Good Husband of Zebra Drive
The Miracle at Speedy Motors
Tea Time for the Traditionally Built
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series of books was made into a short lived television series and starred American singer Jill Scott.