Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Full Cupboard of Life

The Full Cupboard of Life
by Alexander McCall Smith
Recommended Ages: 13+

Botswana's first private detective works a case she doesn't even get to finish in this fifth novel of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. It isn't terribly mysterious. Her client, a successful businesswoman, has decided to settle down and get married, so she asks Mma Precious Ramotswe for advice on which of her four suitors is the most suitable. Could it be the earnest, if dull, schoolmaster who takes a single-minded interest in reforming bad girls? The popular radio host? Or if neither, one of the others?

The investigation takes a back seat to other matters around the shared offices of the agency and Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors. As has happened before in this series, things develop so quickly that time seems to run out on the case before the investigation really gets anywhere. But after all, the cases in this series are more studies of human character than actual mysteries.

Among the characters it studies are the matron of the Tlokweng Orphan Farm, who hectors the kindly mechanic Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni into agreeing to jump out of an airplane for charity. Then there's Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, who faces not only this terrible ordeal but also a confrontation with a tough but dishonest colleague in the auto repair trade. The absurd young apprentice named Charlie gets a starring role, and of course Mma Ramotswe stands at the center of it all, trying to bring her engagement to Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni to its long delayed culmination.

What this book, and each book in this series, lacks in breadth of structure or in the force of a mystery-thriller plot line, it makes up in warmth, truth to its characters, gentle humor and a touch of lyricism. All these merits shine out even more in the audio-book version ready by Lisette Lecat. The next of so far 16 books in this series is In the Company of Cheerful Ladies.

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