Review

The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon: No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

by Alexander McCall Smith

Has it been just over a year since we last visited with Precious Ramotswe and her associate, Grace Makutsi, at the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency? We are relieved to find her in her modest office where she first hung her shingle next to Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, the garage owned by her husband, Mr J.L.B. Matekoni. Many changes have taken place in the 15 years since the hopeful young woman of traditional build opened her door. 

Change is still in the air in Botswana with the discovery of diamonds and the affluence that follows. Gaborone, the nation’s capital, is no longer the sleepy little town of its early years. The streets where dogs once dozed and the occasional cow claimed the right of way are now paved and clogged with traffic. Where Precious once knew everyone she encountered, she finds new faces in the booming businesses and wonders if the strangers and young people are not as polite as they once were. 

"THE MINOR ADJUSTMENT BEAUTY SALON is one of the best installments in this beloved series. The coziest of all cozies, opening a No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novel is like sitting down with a dear friend for a nice cup of tea and a piece of cake."

The detective agency’s excellent reputation attracts just enough business to stay afloat and be as busy as they want to be. When Precious is approached by a local attorney who is the executor of a large estate left by a local farmer, she is reluctant to take the assignment. The lawyer suspects that the young male heir named in the will is an imposter with no legal claim to the prosperous cattle ranch and asks Precious to make some personal inquiries. With little expertise in legal matters, she brings Grace into the case and discovers that she has a flair for legalese. Their questions lead in an unsettling direction. 

Meanwhile, Precious notices a sign in one of the new business offices in the nearby mall.  The name The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon intrigues her, and she drops by to greet the new business owner and finds her very upset. The distraught woman recognizes Precious and shows her a suspicious-looking box that just arrived in the mail. It contains nothing but a small, seemingly harmless feather and an oddly worded message. Precious recognizes the feather as from a bird that is often used in witchcraft to put a curse on someone. Is it a threat? When ugly rumors and pamphlets start to appear and customers don’t make return visits, Precious is pressed into service to discover the source of the smear campaign. Modern ways may have come to Gaborone, but the old ways are not so easily left behind.

Another subtle but increasingly noticeable change is how recently wed Grace Makutsi’s waistline is expanding. In her usual discreet manner, Precious is waiting for Grace to break the news. When J.L.B. and even his apprentice mechanics begin to notice, Precious is faced with finally broaching the subject. How will the business run without Grace while she is out with a new baby? Will they have to hire a temp to take her place? Precious and J.L.B. are still wondering what to do when Mother Nature steps in, and a solution must be found sooner rather than later. 

Alexander McCall Smith examines the depth and meaning of friendships, family ties, cultural customs, and the sometimes gray areas between blind justice and common fairness. Above all, he explores --- or, dare I say, advocates for --- civility in an uncivil world. THE MINOR ADJUSTMENT BEAUTY SALON is one of the best installments in this beloved series. The coziest of all cozies, opening a No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novel is like sitting down with a dear friend for a nice cup of tea and a piece of cake. When you are in the company of Mma Ramotswe, you know that, despite the clamor and chaos that passes for modern life, somewhere out there, all is right with the world. 

Reviewed by Roz Shea on November 22, 2013

The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon: No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
by Alexander McCall Smith

  • Publication Date: June 3, 2014
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor
  • ISBN-10: 0307473007
  • ISBN-13: 9780307473004