Friday, May 12, 2006

Blue Shoes and Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith

Because I have already commented positively on three other books by Alexander McCall Smith, it is no surprise that I enjoyed Blue Shoes and Happiness. In this new book Mma Ramotswe and company tackle small mysteries while suffering a very hot dry season in Botswana. Instead of reviewing the book in a way that might give away any of the surprises, let me list what I like about the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series, of which Blue Shoes and Happiness is the seventh book.

Mma Ramotswe is a thoughtful main character who seeks humane, respectful resolutions to the problems she encounters. She is humble and usually honest. She gets most of her information by waiting until she understands a subject's motivations and then asking direct questions. She never breaks into buildings, never uses weapons, or never chases criminals in sports cars. She is a peace-seeker who finds solutions that usually do not involve the police or courts of law.

The plots are very subtle. I had read two thirds of one of the books before even realizing there was a mystery. The author may have Mma Ramotswe solve three or four client problems in a book, while dealing with her own business and her family. Readers can not foresee most plot twists.

The series continues to develop new characters. Two important characters who first appeared in In the Company of Cheerful Ladies, the furniture salesman Phuti Radiphuti who is engaged to Grace Makutsi and the mechanics' assistant Mr. Polopetsi whose bicycle Mma Ramotswe hit with her old white van, have important roles in the new book.

Mma Ramotswe loves Botswana. She keeps the land, its people, and her ancestors close in her thoughts. Readers of her descriptions of the land want to visit the peaceful country. I know that I do.

Though the stories are set in a distant African country, the concerns of Mma Ramotswe and her friends are the same as those of readers - protecting one's family, making ends meet, and living a good life.

These books are very popular and do not really need a plug, but I want to go on record recommending them. If have not yet read any of the books, go to the library now and check out the first book The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. If you have started reading the series, continue. Every one of the books is worth your time.

McCall Smith, Alexander. Blue Shoes and Happiness. New York: Pantheon Books, 2006. ISBN 0375422722

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