cover image How to Raise an Elephant

How to Raise an Elephant

Alexander McCall Smith. Pantheon, $26.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-5247-4936-1

In Smith’s leisurely 21st No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novel (after 2019’s To the Land of Long Lost Friends), Blessing Mompati, a distant cousin of Precious Ramotse, the agency’s head, needs money to pay for a hip replacement for her friend Tefo Kgomo. Tefo, a South African who’s lived for years in Botswana, can’t get citizenship because he’s been convicted of stock theft and is ineligible for health care. Mma Ramotse and her assistant, Grace Makutsi, suspect Blessing and Tefo are lying. When a couple move into the house next door to Mma Ramotse and her husband, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, she’s distressed to overhear them arguing. Meanwhile, Charlie, who works for Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni’s garage, is keeping an orphaned baby elephant outside his uncle’s house. The effort to find a permanent home for the animal generates a little suspense, along with some comment on the plight of the desperate people who kill elephants for their ivory. Minimal detective work leads to the resolution of all three situations. Series fans will be charmed, as usual, by the conversations between Mwa Ramotse and her friends on such topics as the usefulness of men and the benefits of bush tea, but this isn’t the place to start for newcomers. Agent: Robin Straus, Robin Straus Agency. (Nov.)