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The House of Unexpected Sisters: No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (18)

Review

The House of Unexpected Sisters: No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (18)

There’s something comforting about picking up any Alexander McCall Smith novel that his millions of fans around the world embrace. We head for our favorite reading chair and prepare for a few hours of the soothing respite of sage wisdom, wry humor and enduring humanity. His engaging characters are as familiar and welcome as old friends, embraced in a story we can relate to if only in our memories.

When it’s our favorite lady detective, Precious Ramotswe, we perhaps fix a cup of tea (red bush tea would be nice, but where do you find it?). We lay aside whatever is niggling at the back of our minds for a few precious hours to enter that halcyon world of Gaborone, Botswana, a once sleepy village that has grown up to become a city. However, in Smith’s world, it is where common sense and the values of personal relationships still rule. Never condescending, it is always uplifting in the knowledge that somewhere, someplace, the old rules of common sense and charity still abide.

"This is the 18th installment in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, but never do these stories grow stale, and never do the characters become cliché or caricatures of themselves."

In THE HOUSE OF UNEXPECTED SISTERS, Mma Ramotswe is startled to hear that there is a woman named Mingie Ramotswe working as a nurse in a nearby city. This woman with a name that is unusual in Botswana apparently looks very much like Mma Ramotswe. She is traditionally built, and has the same smile and eyes. Mma Ramotswe is certain that she knows each and every relative, nearby or far. This strange news has thrown her off her usual calm and collected demeanor. When she tracks down and meets this Mingie Ramotswe, her world seems to crumble. Everything she ever believed about her revered father, Obed Ramotswe, is threatened.

Meanwhile, she learns that her first husband, a heartbreaking mistake from her past, has been spotted in Gaborone. This leads her to make several comforting visits for conversation with her dear friend who runs the orphanage and bakes the most delectable cakes.

Civility still rules in the world that Smith has created in the Africa where he once taught at university. It is a place that he still holds in his heart. In his Gaborone, despite the increased traffic, the modern invasion of computers and cell phones, and the computerized engines of modern cars --- a pet peeve of Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, Mma Ramotswe’s husband and owner of the garage where she has her office --- we know that whatever curves are thrown at Mma Ramotswe, she will straighten them out with dignity and matchless fairmindedness. The same values of friendship and family, business and private lives still abide in her world.

This is the 18th installment in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, but never do these stories grow stale, and never do the characters become cliché or caricatures of themselves. Smith amazingly comes up with a new conundrum to resolve in each book. Do you remember that old question that was popular some years ago? Who would you most like to have as a dinner partner? Without hesitation and with no change in opinion over these many years, it is decidedly Alexander McCall Smith. His wit, philosophical point of view, and wisdom of what is --- or should be --- innately human in all of us would lead to heady conversation indeed. 

Reviewed by Roz Shea on November 10, 2017

The House of Unexpected Sisters: No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (18)
by Alexander McCall Smith

  • Publication Date: November 7, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon
  • ISBN-10: 1101871377
  • ISBN-13: 9781101871379