Just as Precious Ramotswe, the first lady of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, is confronted with two difficult cases of personal concern, who should arrive but the indomitable, the esteemed Detective of Detectives: Clovis Anderson. He is visiting Africa for the first time all the way from Indiana in America. Yes, it is THE Clovis Anderson, author of the detective’s bible The Principles of Private Detection. The well-thumbed handbook is never more than an arm’s reach from Precious Ramotswe and her Associate, Grace Makutsi.
"Readers of this beloved series can count on the wise wit and wisdom of Mma Ramotswe to come up with the right, if not the most obvious, solution to every problem."
In fact, they had just been consulting it for guidance in how to deal with the arrest of Fanwell, a top mechanic at the Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, Mma Ramotswe’s husband’s garage. Fanwell, the quiet, well-behaved young man who has worked there since before Mma Ramotswe opened the detective agency next door, is being held for distribution of stolen goods. This inconceivable situation has both ladies too upset to think clearly about what to do. How could this innocent young man do anything against the law?
The other troublesome case deals with Mma Potokwane, the matron of the exemplary orphan farm and a close friend of Mma Ramotswe. Mma Potokwane has been summarily fired by a new member of the board of directors. Mma Ramotswe has a strong feeling that some sort of skullduggery is afoot, because Mr. Ditso Ditso, the new board member who had her fired, is known to be a wealthy but unscrupulous man. With nothing more than suspicion, how can they smoke him out and expose a crime they only suspect?
Mr. Clovis Anderson had appeared to Mma Ramotswe in a dream, yet now, here he is, as if summoned, asking for directions at her office. Perhaps he will have the answer to both of these dilemmas. He is humbled by the ladies’ confidence in him, but has problems of his own that perhaps they can help him with.
Meanwhile, Assistant Detective Grace Makutsi, the new bride of Phuti Radiphuti, the furniture scion of Botswana, is excitedly planning her new home. Her husband, who knows everything about furniture but nothing about houses, is in charge of the plans and contracts, and has hired a contractor whom Grace suspects is not above board. A chance encounter with the head carpenter bolsters her doubts. A solution for uncovering fraud is not to be found in the detective guidebook, but with Mr. Clovis Anderson at hand, perhaps the problem can be solved.
Readers of this beloved series can count on the wise wit and wisdom of Mma Ramotswe to come up with the right, if not the most obvious, solution to every problem. With the gentle persuasion and common sense she applies to resolving the nattiest of problems, you can be assured that the most conniving and devious of manipulators will be brought to justice. They will rue the day they crossed Mma Ramotswe --- and walk away wondering what just happened.
Each edition of the series is like a love letter to the graceful way of life in Gabaron, Botswana. Alexander McCall Smith was born in what is now Zimbabwe and taught law at the University of Botswana. He currently lives in Scotland where he is involved with international organizations dealing with medical bioethtics. The yearning for his homeland echoes through the pages of each of these gentle stories. Surely the cities of Africa have changed in these troubled times, yet we can hope that the civil ways and graceful ceremonies of the heart of Africa still flow through the veins of younger Africans.
Will Mr. Clovis Anderson be as enchanted with this ancient city on the edge of the Kalahari desert? Will he stay and found an academy for private detection? Perhaps Alexander McCall Smith isn’t quite finished bringing us the adventures of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.
Reviewed by Roz Shea on April 13, 2012