About cakes, cattle, and the passing of the old ways

old ways: The Double Comfort Safari Club by Alexander McCall Smith

For any reader looking for respite from the unrelenting violence of the world we live in, The Double Comfort Safari Club is a worthy antidote. The characters in this novel “. . . talked about all sorts of things . . .: about weddings and children and money. About cattle. About jealousy and envy and love. About cakes. About friends and enemies and people they remembered who had gone away, or changed, or even died. About everything, really.”

“About everything,” indeed. The #1 Ladies Detective Agency Series is less a collection of detective stories than a continuing portrait of a worldview unfamiliar to most North Americans. Mma (“Ms.”) Precious Ramotswe, founder and proprietor of the agency, and her sidekick, Grace Makutsi, exemplify an idealized view of the culture of Botswana, an island of peace and stability in a neighborhood that includes South Africa, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. In their speech and their internal dialogue, Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi, as well as virtually every other major character in the series, manifest the kindness and slow-moving rhythms of their remarkable country.


The Double Comfort Safari Club (#1 Ladies Detective Agency #11) by Alexander McCall Smith (2010) 225 pages ★★★★★ 


Consider this example of interior dialogue:

“Mma Makutsi was not certain that floating could be called a sport. Was there a Botswana floating team? She thought not. What would such a team do? Would they have to float gently from one point to another, with the winner being the one who arrived first? Surely not.”

This twelfth installment in the magnificent #1 Ladies Detective Agency Series is worthy of its predecessors in every way. Like its forbears, The Double Comfort Safari Club revolves around several intersecting plotlines. An American estate lawyer has asked Mma Ramotswe to track down a nameless guide at a safari camp who has been granted a generous bequest by a former client. Mma Makutsi’s fiancee, Phuti Radiphuti, loses a foot in a tragic accident at his furniture store, precipitating a standoff between Mma Makutsi and his nasty “senior aunt.” Meanwhile, Mma Makutsi’s nemesis, the beautiful but unscrupulous Violet Sephotho, has victimized another unsuspecting man, who has come to Mma Ramotswe for help. And a female friend asks Mma Ramotswe to confirm her suspicion that her husband, a “part-time minister” and radio evangelist, is having an affair. Complications ensue in every one of these unfolding stories — and every one of them is satisfactorily resolved by the redoubtable Mma Ramotswe, that bottomless well of understanding and humankindness.

About the author

The author, Alexander McCall Smith, is an extraordinarily prolific writer. In addition to the #1 Ladies Detective Agency Series, he continues to write three other series of fictional tales, plus children’s books and short stories — not to mention the many nonfiction articles and books he has written as a widely recognized authority on bioethics and medical law. McCall Smith is a lawyer who has spent many years teaching at universities in Botswana, Ireland, and Scotland. He was born and raised in the country now known as Zimbabwe.

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