Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Review: Tea Time for the Traditionally Built

The 10th installment of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series has finally arrived this side of the pond (U.S. version at the left; the Brits got theirs, at the right, six weeks ahead of us). The wonderfully titled Tea Time for the Traditionally Built continues the charming saga of Mma Precious Ramotswe; her husband, Mr J.L.B. Matekoni; and her irrepressible secretary and assistant detective, Grace Makutsi.

Will the lady detectives be able to solve a football crisis? Will Grace lose her fiancé to a scheming, lying rival? Will Mma Ramotswe have to give up her beloved little white van? Such predicaments keep the story rolling along, but they aren't why I come back to Botswana, book after book. I adore Mma Ramotswe: she is a good woman, in the best sense of the word, and a big part of her goodness is her respectful, no-nonsense concern for others. I also love her love for Botswana--its traditions, its people, its geography.

Now I've made the books sound saccharine, and that's just wrong. They couldn't be, or Mr Neff would not read them so avidly. Sweet, sometimes, but never artificial. Gentle, but funny. On a scale ranging from Patricia D. Cornwell to Jan Karon, they're somewhere in the middle. They are especially satisfying when you're exhausted or brain dead or grumpy (i.e., in the evening after work).

If you've read any of them, I need say no more. If you haven't, start with the first. The Wikipedia article gives more background and lists all ten titles. Alexander McCall Smith has written several other series too. They're all good.

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