THE FULL CUPBOARD OF LIFE
Alexander McCall Smith, . . Pantheon, $19.95 (198pp) ISBN 978-0-375-42218-8
Precious Ramotswe is on the case again in this delightful fifth installment in the bestselling No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, this time assisting the self-made founder of a chain of hairdressing salons who wants to unearth the real intentions of her four suitors, each possibly more interested in her money than her heart. As fans know, though, sleuthing takes second place to folksy storytelling in McCall Smith's wry novels. This time around, Mma Ramotswe is distracted by her long-prolonged engagement to Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, Gaborone's best mechanic; it seems she will never be married, despite her fiancé's honorable intentions. He installs an extra large seatbelt in her car to keep her safe (she is quite comfortable with her "traditional build," despite the new, slender fashion of modern woman), but an altercation with another mechanic and the prospect of a charity parachute jump keep his mind off matrimony. A drive for decency motivates Mma Ramotswe and her friends—among them Mma Potokwani, the imperious matron of the local orphan farm, and Mma Makutsi, assistant at the Ladies' Detective Agency and founder of the Kalahari Typing School for Men—and Smith's talent is in portraying this moral code in a manner that is always engaging. As readers will appreciate, Mma Ramotswe solves her cases—more questions of character, really, than of criminal behavior—in good time. Traditionally built ladies living in the African heat don't tend to hurry, and, at the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, there's always time for another cup of tea.
Reviewed on: 03/29/2004