Review

The Miracle at Speedy Motors

by Alexander McCall Smith

We
welcome Precious Ramotswe with open arms as she continues to solve
the personal and often deceptively simple problems of her fellow
Botswanians. Miracles, it seems, can happen in unexpected and often
unrecognized ways, as she and her Associate Detective Mma Makutsi
discover.

Someone is leaving threatening notes addressed to Mma Ramotswe at
the Speedy Motors garage, owned by her husband and the location
where the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is found. Disclosing
the suspected poison penman could jeopardize the friendship and
loyalty of someone close to them, so she must use her most
diplomatic means of uncovering the source of the threats, then
resolving the situation in her own inimitable way.

A larger mystery requires finding the lost family of a woman who
always suspected that the parents who raised her were not her
parents at all, but no evidence exists to prove otherwise. Her
mother and father are now dead --- or “late,” as they
are described in the charming musical language of Botswana. The
search leads down some fascinating and troubling byways of
Botswana’s past, as Mma Ramotswe travels to surrounding
villages to meet with people who might shed light on a ticklish
situation.

A third possible miracle is the discovery by Mma Ramotswe’s
husband of a doctor who may be able to cure the condition that has
crippled their foster daughter, consigned for life to a
wheelchair.

Meanwhile, now that the date is set for Mma Makutsi and her
prosperous fiancé Phuti, they are looking for a marital bed
--- an activity that proves not only embarrassing for them but
could threaten their future.

We are treated to the introspections that reflect the fading
culture of this ancient society, as Mma Ramotswe finds doodles by
her assistant linking her name to her fiancé's in the way of
all young women in love. “Women, thought Mma Ramotswe, are
sometimes like plump chickens in the yard, while outside, circling
the fence, were the hyenas, the men. It was not a happy way of
envisaging the relation between the sexes, but time and time again
she had seen this particular drama played out in exactly that way.
And hyenas, one had to admit, were surely destined to break the
hearts of chickens; they could do nothing else.”

On the subject of being “traditionally built” --- the
euphemism that best describes our heroine as a comfortably padded
woman --- she …“considered it one of the very worst
features of modern society that people should be ashamed to be of
traditional build, cultivating instead a look that was bony and
positively uncomfortable. Everybody knows, she thought, that we
have a skeleton underneath our skin; there’s no reason to
show it.”

That THE MIRACLE AT SPEEDY MOTORS debuted at #3 on the New York
Times
bestseller list is neither a mystery nor a miracle.
Alexander McCall Smith has created a most charming and unique
detective, collecting a growing base of admirers and ardent fans
with each new adventure. Mma Ramotswe has become a beloved emissary
of the rich culture and folk wisdom of Botswana, so lovingly
portrayed by McCall Smith, who taught law and ethics in his adopted
country.

This gentle narrative is without breathtaking chase scenes (unless
you discount the shopping cart pursuit through a local grocery
store) or cliffhangers (oh wait, there is that meditation
at the precipice overlooking Mma Ramotswe’s home village)
that typify most detective novels. And yet it would be inaccurate
to describe any of the nine delightful stories in this series as
“cozies.” There’s no one quite like our
traditionally built Mma Ramotswe, and to pigeonhole her even into a
mystery or detective genre would cramp her style.

Reviewed by Roz Shea on January 7, 2011

The Miracle at Speedy Motors
by Alexander McCall Smith

  • Publication Date: April 15, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon
  • ISBN-10: 0375424482
  • ISBN-13: 9780375424489