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The Miracle at Speedy Motors May 23, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. I just finished reading the latest novel in one of my all-time favorite series, Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, and I wanted to share the fun with you and urge you to read it, too.

The Miracle at Speedy Motors has it all: The principals, No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency founder Precious Ramotswe; the formidable orphanage matron, Mma Potokwane (secretly my favorite character); the owner of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, Mr. J.L.B. Matakone; and Mma Ramotswe’s right-hand woman, Mma Makutsi. All our favorite supporting characters, living and dead, are there as well: Mma Ramotswe’s beloved late father, Obed Ramotswe, her hero, Sir Seretse Khama, and her brutish first husband, Note Mokoti; Mma Makutsi’s fiance, Phuti Radiphuti, and her arch-nemesis, Violet Sephotho; the shy wanna-be detective, Mr. Polopetsi; the orphans Mma Ramtoswe and her husband, Mr. J.L.B. Matakone, adopted, Motholeli and Puso; the incorrigible apprentice mechanic Charlie. And, as faithful readers have come to anticipate, the largely inanimate cast that plays as great a role in the stories as the characters themselves: the tiny white van; Mma Potokwane’s famous fruitcake; Mma Makutsi’s large round glasses and talking shoes; the inevitable cups of red bush tea; cattle herds; and, of course, Botswana itself, last in this list but certainly first in the books.

(Incidentally, I have written Alexander McCall Smith via his website and begged him to write a No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Cookbook, featuring the top secret recipe for Mma Potokwane’s locally celebrated fruitcake as well as Mma Ramotswe’s favorite dishes. I was told that his publisher had suggested this, too, so we may yet see a cookbook. I’ll definitely add it to my collection!)

Needless to say, plots and counter-plots abound, and I’m not about to give them away. I’ll just say that my favorite scenes both involved Mma Ramotswe, Mma Potokwane, the tiny white van, and the famous fruitcake. Ha!!!!!

I’ve loved the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series ever since I first stumbled on Blue Shoes and Happiness in my local library. Let me hasten to say that I’m no mystery fan. I love Sherlock Holmes, because of his marvellous character and the fact that most of his mysteries were intellectual puzzles rather than gore-dripping slaughterhouses disguised as books. I love Tony Hillerman’s mysteries because of his descriptions of the Southwest and the Navajo and Hopi lifeways. (And, okay, Jim Chee is hard to resist.) But usually, I pass mysteries by and wonder how people can sleep when they’re reading them. (Red Dragon, anyone?)

But the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series is not about blood, guts, and mayhem. Its gentle mysteries hark back to Holmes, when a mystery meant a puzzle, not a murder. Its characters are memorable and lovable. Mma Ramotswe has a heart big enough to hold all Botswana. The stories are filled with gentle (and sometimes laugh-out-loud) humor. (Our friend Ben has said that he always knows when I’m reading one because he can hear me laughing.) Instead of celebrating violence, these delightful novels celebrate the few things that really matter: love, loyalty, friendship, family, gratitude, generosity, appreciation. The ability to take little and make much out of it, because the “much” is a state of mind.

If you’re already a fan of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books, let me just say that, to my own delight, The Miracle at Speedy Motors is my favorite book in the series (so far). It’s always a thrill to see that a favorite author has made his or her series stronger rather than petering out as the novels continue. Thank you, Mr. McCall Smith! Go to your local library and put yourself on the waiting list right now, while you’re thinking about it. And if you’re not familiar with the series, you have a real treat in store! Check out a few of the earlier books, put on the tea kettle, and get ready to lose yourself, then find yourself richer than before.  

               ‘Til next time,





1. Cinj - May 23, 2008

I wish I had more time to read. It’s funny how having a family shifts your focus from things you love to do to other things. I still read some, but not as many fiction books as I’d like to….

I know what you mean, Cinj! I have a whole hierarchy of reading material based on how tired I am. It goes like this, from alert to so tired I’m falling over: nonfiction; “serious” fiction; light fiction; magazines; favorite catalogues. And there’s certainly been many a night when staring at catalogues was about all I could manage! Fortunately, The Miracle at Speedy Motors falls into “light fiction,” so it’s easy reading. I suggest you try it—I think you’ll like it! And it’s a very fast read.

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