Friday, February 19, 2016

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built
by Alexander McCall Smith
Recommended Ages: 13+

Book 10 of 16 of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency casts Mma Precious Ramotswe, Botswana's only private eye, in the unaccustomed role of a football (or soccer) detective. A certain Mr. Molofololo (accent on the "o"), owner of the Kalahari Swoopers, insists there must be a traitor on his team, causing it to lose games that it should win. Mma Ramotswe and her prickly associate Mma Makutsi get to work, interviewing the players and exposing jealous rivalries, suspicious debts, possible vision problems, and other motives making every member of the team almost equally likely to be the traitor. But of course, the solution comes out of the mouth of Mma Ramotswe's foster son Puso, who is wild about the game.

Meanwhile, Mma Makutsi is worried about losing her fiance, Mr. Phuti Radiphuti, to the seductive charms of her arch-rival from the Botswana Secretarial College. Violet Sepotho, already a confirmed husband-stealer, takes a job at Phuti's furniture store and shows a surprising talent for selling beds. While Mma Makutsi writhes in anxiety, the agency gets a visit from another Mma Sepotho - who, surprisingly, is unrelated - asking for help with her own dilemma: She has two husbands, who are unaware of her two-timing. Now the weekday husband wants to invite the weekend husband over for dinner - and she is supposed to serve as hostess while also appearing as the guest's wife.

Solutions to Mma Ramotswe's cases are often anticlimactic and down-to-earth. She is devoted to a manual of private detection by a certain Clovis Andersen, and usually thinks he is never wrong; but at times, she figures out ways of doing things that she knows Clovis Andersen would not approve. She understands how to get valuable information out of children. She has learned the best way to find out about something is to ask a direct question. And she applies the attitude every day that what her career is about is helping people. This makes her series of adventures an unusually gentle, compassionate saga of low-key mysteries, enlivened by whimsical incidents like the foiling of Violet Sepotho's plan, and held together by minor plot arcs like Mma Ramotswe's touching quest to reunite with her faithful, old, tiny white van. The next book in the series is The Double Comfort Safari Club.

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