Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Double Comfort Safari Club

As I am still in the process of reading Alexander McCall Smith's newest novel in his delightful and thought provoking No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, I don't suppose this  properly counts as a  "review" of The Double Comfort Safari Club. I am almost at the mid-way point in the book, and wanted to share a few thoughts here before reading on and seeing how it is all going to turn out.

The backdrop for this series is Botswana in Africa, home to the main character, Precious Romotswe. Mma Romotswe established the "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" with the modest amount of money inherited from her father. She had absolutely no previous experience in that profession, but with the information and advice she read in a book,  The Principles of Private Detection, a good deal of common sense, and wisdom gained from her life's experiences, she set up shop.

Some of the characters who regularly appear in the series are:

Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni is Mma Ramotswe's "Good Husband" (she previously had a very bad one), automobile mechanic and proprietor of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors. His employees include Charlie, who is known for his talking or acting first, and thinking later.

Grace Makutsi, secretary and assistant detective to Mma Ramotswe. Mma Makutsi has "difficult skin," wears glasses that are "too large," and had received a typing score of ninety-seven per cent at the Botswana Secretarial College, an achievement of which she is constantly reminding everyone.

Mr. Phuti Radiphuti is Mma Makutsi's kind and generous fiancĂ©. Phuti suffers a debilitating injury in this story, and the relationship with Mma Makutsi becomes complicated when his overbearing aunt with a watermelon-shaped head shows up to care for him during his recuperation.

And then there is the "arch-Jezebel," Violet Sephotho. Violet will use her beauty and charm to try to steal another woman's man, or to trick a man into giving her his house.

Alexander McCall Smith is a master at weaving into his stories revelations of human nature, good and bad. In this excerpt, Mma Ramotswe reflects on the background of a friend who is helping her with a case:

Hansi's father was one of a tribe of Afrikaaners that had trekked there in the nineteenth century and had stayed. They were tough people, burned dry by the sun, leather-hard in their determination to eke out a living from the land, followers of a Calvinist church, a long way from their Dutch roots - so long a way as to have become African in their souls. This father of his had produced Hansi by a local woman, a Motswana, and then disowned his tiny son, sending the woman away with a pittance. Hansi knew who he was, and knew his farm, but knew too that he was not welcome there. Yet he was, for some complex reason, proud of this farmer who denied him, and of his lineage, and spoke of his father with the same air of pride as Mma Ramotswe spoke of hers. She thought, though, If I could speak to that man and tell him how much his son loves him, and shake him until he acknowledged this love and how stupid he was to turn his heart against it. If I could speak to him ... But some of us cannot see love, she said to herself, even when it is there, right before us, asking us to invite it in.

The Double Comfort Safari Club, copyright © 2010 Alexander McCall Smith,  is published by Pantheon Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

Photograph of author © Chris Watt


Pilgrim Mommy said...

Would you recommend this series? I've seen it at the library. I prefer the "cozy" rather than the "hard-boiled" type of detective story. said...

I do recommend it. And it is cozy. My wife has read all of the series. Smith really is good at showing the inner character of the people as the interact in life situations, as you may have detected in my post.

Let me know if you decide to start reading them.

Craig B