The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection
by Alexander McCall Smith
Recommended Ages: 13+
While the Clovis Anderson storyline has a bittersweet poignancy, an even stronger vein of unhappiness flows through the other channels of this book. Fanwell, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni's younger apprentice (actually, a junior mechanic now), has fallen into legal trouble, thanks to an old friend who involved him in some shady business. Everyone believes he is innocent, but with the worst lawyer in Botswana representing him, the case might be hopeless. Meanwhile, Mma Potokwane, the orphan farm matron, has been dismissed from her post by a board of directors that has fallen under the sway of a modernizing businessman named Ditso Ditso. While Mma Ramotswe racks her brains for a way to help, she increasingly feels that everything is falling apart. And on top of all that, the contractor building the new house for newlyweds Phuti Radiphuti and Mma Makutsi is also up to something unsavory, but the only person who can tell them what it is is too afraid.
The series' Afro-Scottish author continues to depict Botswana as a place of desolate beauty and simple, modest prosperity; a place with a good but imperfect legal system, faded but still sound traditions, and humane values but inconsistently upheld; a place whose people have survived for generations, and have even found happiness, in a climate that much of the world would regard as marginally habitable; a place where old and new, rich and poor, good and bad spark off each other in fascinating ways. In the midst of it is Mma Ramotswe, who deplores conflict, who sees the goodness in flawed people, who is willing to fight (or sometimes beg) on behalf of those she cares about, and who does not believe in doing a wrong to right a wrong. Hanging around her, book after book, is (I imagine) a bit like breathing the dry air that blows off the Kalahari; it opens the airways and seemingly helps one breathe easy.
Following this book in the No. 1 Ladies sequence is the novella The Cleverness of Ladies, then The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon (named after an institution first described in this book), then just a couple more books before the latest installment, Precious and Grace, which is slated for release in October 2016.