The Handsome Man's De Luxe Café: No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (15)
The economy in Gaborone is having an impact on Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni’s garage. More cars clog the streets, but they are run by computers, not by moving parts that wear out. So Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni faces a problem: he must let one of his two mechanics go. Fanwell, who has grown from an apprentice into a reliable mechanic, remains an invaluable asset to the business, but fun-loving ladies’ man Charlie, whose mechanical skills never quite evolved, sadly must be let go.
This does not rest well with Precious Ramotswe, his wife, whose No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is located in the same building with her husband’s garage business. She decides to hire Charlie and train him as a detective. The Agency’s business has grown enough for Precious to name her somewhat irascible secretary, Grace Makutsi, as a partner, at least in principle, but Mma Ramotswe still rules her domain. Hiring Charlie does not sit well with Mma Makutsi, but now that she is a busy new mother and married to a wealthy furniture store owner, her attentions are focused on opening a business of her own. She leases space to open an exclusive restaurant to be called The Handsome Man’s De Luxe Café.
"Alexander McCall Smith once again delivers an enjoyable and amusing journey through the thought processes and wisdom of one of popular fiction’s wisest detectives."
Grace enthusiastically pursues her new interest in the café as she enters a whole new world as a restaurateur. Hiring a chef, kitchen staff and waiters to live up to the grandiose title of the new establishment proves to be an educational experience, complete with pitfalls she never could have imagined. The fun ended after decorating was completed.
Meanwhile, a new, troubling case lands on the Agency’s desk. A woman, known only as “Mrs,” has been taken in by a well-to-do Indian couple who live in an exclusive gated community in Gaborone. “Mrs” suffers from amnesia and professes to having no idea where she came from or what her name is. Botswana’s immigration policies have tightened, so when authorities refuse to issue papers to someone with no name, address or passport, they demand that her benefactors determine her identity. Without verification, she will be assumed to have illegally crossed the border from Zimbabwe and faces deportation.
The immigration service recommends that Mma Ramotswe conduct the investigation and fulfill the requirements. Upon interviewing the benefactors, she is not convinced of the woman’s so-called amnesia as she takes on the case and agrees to clear up the identity problem. This gives rise to a perfect opportunity to train Charlie in the art of surveillance, which results in complications of its own.
Mma Ramotswe applies her very special skills to solving each of these situations, both personal and professional.
Alexander McCall Smith once again delivers an enjoyable and amusing journey through the thought processes and wisdom of one of popular fiction’s wisest detectives. If only Precious Ramotswe’s diplomatic skills could infuse international affairs, what a pleasant place our world would be.
Reviewed by Roz Shea on November 7, 2014