After an extended break, I am happy to report that I have made some time to catch up with an old friend: Precious Ramotswe, that traditionally built lady and founder of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. I was delighted to receive a copy of Precious and Grace, book number seventeen in Alexander McCall Smith’s excellent series set in Botswana, from Hachette Australia for review. Of course, with such a series there could be no more appropriate review format than that of Utopirama and so here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
The delightful seventeenth installment of the ever-popular, perennially best-selling No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series.
Precious Ramotswe, Botswana’s premier lady detective, is a little short on help. The co-director of the agency, Grace Makutsi, is busy with her own case, her client none other than their erstwhile assistant, Mr. Polopetsi, who has unwittingly involved himself in a pyramid scheme. The agency’s other assistant, Charlie, may also need more help than he can offer, as he is newly embroiled in a romance with a glamorous woman about whom the others have their doubts.
So when a young Canadian woman approaches Mma Ramotswe with a complex case, it’s up to her alone to solve it with her signature intuition and insight, of course. The young woman spent part of her childhood in Botswana and needs help finding a long-lost acquaintance. But much time has passed, and her memory yields few clues. The difficult search and the unexpected results will remind them all that sometimes it’s those we think we know best who most surprise us.”
I am a little behind on this series as of this moment. The last book of the series I read was The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party, which puts me at a four book disadvantage but this is one of those series in which it doesn’t really matter if you miss a few books because coming back to the story is like coming back to a group of old, forgiving friends. That, and the fact that the author does a neat little summary at the beginning of most of the books so as you don’t miss any of the big plot points.
If you haven’t read any books in this series, you really should. Start with the first and then skip about as you fancy, but definitely make a start and you will no doubt fall in love with the darling characters who inhabit the pages. Precious and Grace felt like a microcosm of the series as a whole: beguiling, gentle, and following its own rhythm toward a satisfying and thought-provoking conclusion. After the initial recap in which the reader is reacquainted with the current situations of each of the characters, we are introduced to Mma Ramotswe’s main case for the book, that of a lady born in Botsawana, whose move to Canada as a small child has opened up feelings of homesickness. On the surface, this seems like a simple case of a lady wanting to revisit her roots, but as ever, Mma Ramotswe discovers the truth behind the lady’s quest and peels back the layers of emotion to get at the nub of the matter.
In the meantime there are subplots about a dog almost made late by Fanwell, that ends up in the most perfect situation, and a very shady scheme indeed in which Mr Polopetsi has unwisely placed his hopes. The growth of Mma Makutsi’s character is interesting in this one – possibly I have missed something telling in the previous four books – but she seems to be more forthright and abrupt than even her normal resting level of forthright abruptness. Something to investigate, indeed!
Coupled with the gentle humour of the story is the unflinching commitment in the narrative to the idea that humanity can always redeem itself; that no matter how low we can sink in our perpetuation of the suffering of others, there is always the opportunity for positive change. The ending of this story had me feeling quite emotional especially in the current climate of fear and distrust that is often exploited by the media. The unassuming exhortation to be better is at the heart of these novels and was proffered particularly deftly this time around.
This felt to me like an intake of breath in the series; a pause, if you will, before more significant life events unfold. As such, it was the perfect choice for the situation of feeling like I had too many books to read and not enough time to read them. This familiar, gentle little gem put me back on the road to internal harmony and helped me avoid a possible reading slump.
Forgive and forget and remember
Finding one’s home
Life’s second chances
Five out of five protective bubbles for the contented snoring of a dog who has found his people.
Until next time,