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Bookmarks Issue: 
17-July-Aug-2005
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0

No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

A-CompanyCheerfulLadiesIn this sixth installment of the bestselling series, Precious Ramotswe, the only female owner of a detective agency in Botswana, is back, newly married to J.L.B. Matekoni. Naturally, she has a plateful of fruitcake cases. First, an intruder escapes from the scene (Precious’s home) without his trousers, and a tasty pumpkin (big enough for four meals!) appears on her stoop. Next she has to deal with a sinister man who threatens her happiness; figure out why one of J.L.B. Matekoni’s trusted mechanics has made off with a flashy, married woman; and encourage romance between her assistant and a stuttering salesman. There is nothing to do but smile … and have another cup of tea.
Pantheon. 233 pages. $19.99. ISBN: 0375422714

Rocky Mountain News 4.5 of 5 Stars
"While Ramotswe follows her homespun detection rules to track a rogue Zambian financier and solve other cases, the author follows the No. 1 rule of most successful writers—write what you know about. … The author juxtaposes such concerns [about orphans] with a wariness that Botswana could be losing its values to a modern world." Lynn Bronikowski

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"[A]s Mma Ramotswe confronts a particularly loathsome opponent and admits to a lapse in judgment that could destroy everything she’s worked to achieve, the novel takes on a seriousness of purpose and an edge that set it apart from and slightly above its predecessors." Dick Lochte

Milwaukee Jrnl Sentinel 4 of 5 Stars
"... just as charming and funny as the previous books in the series." Meg Jones

New York Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Although he repeatedly cites her fatness (traditional build, he calls it) and the tiny white van she drives and the bush tea she drinks, we see her more at the majestic distance from which we view characters in the Bible rather than in intimate novelistic closeup. … The [series] is a literary confection of such gossamer deliciousness that one feels it can only be good for one."
Janet Malcolm

Oregonian 4 of 5 Stars
"Smith offers another version of the continent’s rhyme and rhythm, giving Westerners a new way of seeing the intrinsic beauty of Africa. … In the Company of Cheerful Ladies is worth savoring." Patricia Conover

Detroit Free Press 3.5 of 5 Stars
"[T]he real reason to read these books is the warm humor in Smith’s eloquent, yet accessible writing and the insights of the characters. … Some readers may want more from a mystery—more suspense, more plot, more drama." Ron Bernas

Orlando Sentinel 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Mma Ramotswe and her assistant detective, Mma Grace Makutsi, decide to investigate, because even though Charlie is foolish and cares only about girls and money, they do not wish to see him come to any harm. Though he did call Mma Makutsi a warthog." Kathy Roe

Critical Summary

There is more sitting around than solving mysteries in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, but no matter—little detracts from its popularity. Each installment (soon to be a TV series) features the traditionally built, strong-willed, but rather cool-headed Mma Ramotswe (though some compelling men debut here); each follows the same leisurely formula. The power lies in McCall Smith’s deep human insights and rich, dignified portrait of Botswana. He captures details—the locals’ appreciation of small things—and the larger picture of Africa’s economic hardship. In Cheerful Ladies, as in its predecessors, the detective agency exists "to solve the problems in people’s lives," not "all the world’s problems." But reading Cheerful Ladies should shelve your own problems—for a while, anyway.

Start of the Series

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (2001): Mma Ramotswe makes her debut as she establishes herself as Botswana’s first female detective. Was a boy killed to supply a witchdoctor’s medicine? Why does a clinic doctor have two distinctly different personalities?