Monday, March 28, 2016

The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine by Alexander McCall Smith

Reviewed by Jeanne

Precious Ramotswe, founder and chief investigator of the Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency, is going to take a holiday.  This comes somewhat as a surprise to her, as she’s never before taken a holiday nor had she planned on doing so this time, but somehow or other she agrees to take one.  This leaves her assistant Mma Makutsi to handle the detective work and while Mma Ramotswe knows she is diligent, she also knows that Mma Makutsi is sometimes not the most diplomatic person.   On the other hand, business has been very slow, so perhaps there will be no cases at all--or so she hopes.

Left to her own devices, Mma Ratmotswe vacations by cleaning cabinets and becoming involved with the plight of a young juvenile delinquent. Then she hears that the Agency has an important case involving a late government official and Mma Makutsi doesn’t seem to be handling it well. Should she step in or trust that her friend and colleague can handle it on her own?

If you’ve read any of the other entries in the Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency series, then you know that solving the mystery is just one element of the story and usually it’s not the most important element.  Instead, the books offer humorous observations on the human behavior, wonderful examinations of character, and a vivid look at the country of Botswana. Much of the story here revolves around questions of character and of social conditions but this isn’t a preachy book; it is, however, a compassionate one.  

Most of the books in this series can be read as standalones, but this is one that depends more on the reader’s familiarity with the regular characters to be fully enjoyed. With that background, one can better appreciate how very far the characters have come from their origins and how the characters and their relationships have changed and grown. I enjoy the rhythms of the speech, the semi-formality of the way the people talk. One point of contention is that Mma Ramotswe tends to preface statements with “It is a well-known” as a way of bolstering her opinions.  Of course, she’s never challenged outright but it’s obvious some of her listeners have their doubts.

While this isn’t the strongest entry in the series, fans will still find much to enjoy.  After all, sometimes it’s nice just to check in with old friends and have a cup of red bush tea.

If you’re looking for car chases or bodies in locked rooms, you’ll need to look elsewhere.  On the other hand, if you’re looking for a feel-good read set in an exotic locale this might just fit the bill.

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