cover image The Great Cake Mystery: Precious Ramotswe’s 
Very First Case

The Great Cake Mystery: Precious Ramotswe’s Very First Case

Alexander McCall Smith, illus. by Iain McIntosh. Random/Anchor, $12.99 (96p) ISBN 978-0-307-74389-3

This lovely, warmhearted novel reveals how Precious Ramotswe, the star of Smith’s the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series for adults, launched her sleuthing career. Curious and observant, Precious, “one of the nicest girls in Botswana,” is a natural detective. She finds her first case at school, when a piece of cake, a slice of jam-slathered bread, and some iced buns disappear. Smith laces his narrative with drily contemplative musings (“You can lose a plain piece of bread and not think twice about it, but when you lose one spread thickly with strawberry jam it’s an altogether more serious matter”) as well as direct addresses to readers that tap into childhood dreams of being a detective. When classmates accuse a “rather round” student of the thefts and he denies it, Precious believes him and hunts for the real culprit. Throughout, Smith shares wise insights on human nature through his compassionate and fair-minded protagonist. Bold and striking, McIntosh’s chunky, two-color woodcutlike pictures present evocative images of the African setting. This is a story, and a heroine, with impressive dimension. Ages 7–10. Agent: Robin Straus, Robin Straus Agency. (Apr.)