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The Full Cupboard of Life (No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, Book 5) Paperback – January 25, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Precious Ramotswe is on the case again in this delightful fifth installment in the bestselling No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, this time assisting the self-made founder of a chain of hairdressing salons who wants to unearth the real intentions of her four suitors, each possibly more interested in her money than her heart. As fans know, though, sleuthing takes second place to folksy storytelling in McCall Smith's wry novels. This time around, Mma Ramotswe is distracted by her long-prolonged engagement to Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, Gaborone's best mechanic; it seems she will never be married, despite her fiancé's honorable intentions. He installs an extra large seatbelt in her car to keep her safe (she is quite comfortable with her "traditional build," despite the new, slender fashion of modern woman), but an altercation with another mechanic and the prospect of a charity parachute jump keep his mind off matrimony. A drive for decency motivates Mma Ramotswe and her friends-among them Mma Potokwani, the imperious matron of the local orphan farm, and Mma Makutsi, assistant at the Ladies' Detective Agency and founder of the Kalahari Typing School for Men-and Smith's talent is in portraying this moral code in a manner that is always engaging. As readers will appreciate, Mma Ramotswe solves her cases-more questions of character, really, than of criminal behavior-in good time. Traditionally built ladies living in the African heat don't tend to hurry, and, at the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, there's always time for another cup of tea.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–In this fifth installment about the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Mma Ramotswe and her assistant, Mma Makutsi, tackle the case of a wealthy woman who wants to know which of her suitors is only after her money. On a personal note, Mma Ramotswe worries over when her fiancé will set a date for their marriage, and more urgently, who will replace him in performing the parachute jump, a charity event to raise money for the Orphan Farm. The charm of this series set in Botswana is its wealth of very real characters. By Western standards they may be economically poor, but in terms of pride, love, and happiness, they are rich indeed. Readers will be seduced by the beauty of the land and intrigued by local customs. They will learn about drought and irrigation, about growing pumpkins, braiding hair, and dealing with poisonous snakes. The cases Mma Ramotswe handles are more about solving problems than crimes. Her behavior is governed by good manners, politeness, and honesty, and her favorite tool in the art of detecting is tea, preferably Bush Tea. The book has lots of humor, and optimism softens the tough realities of life. It also has a delightful surprise ending.–Sheila Janega, Fairfax County Public Library, Great Falls, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 198 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (January 25, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400031818
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400031818
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (398 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #110,405 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alexander McCall Smith was born in what is now Zimbabwe and taught law at the University of Botswana. He is now Professor of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh. He has written more than fifty books, including a number of specialist titles, but is best known for The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, which has achieved bestseller status on four continents. In 2004 he was awarded British Book Awards Author of the Year and Booksellers Association Author of the Year. He lives in Scotland, where in his spare time he is a bassoonist in the RTO (Really Terrible Orchestra).

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

89 of 92 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on April 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Mma Precious Ramotswe, warm-hearted proprietor of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency in Gaborone, Botswana, is drinking tea at an outdoor café when she witnesses the theft of a bracelet. In her haste to apprehend the female thief and return the bracelet to the poor vendor, she leaves her table without paying her bill. The waitress hurries after her, accuses her of intentionally neglecting her bill, and then offers to "forget" about it if Mma pays her an extortionate fee.

Distressed by what she sees as the loss of Botswana's traditional values, Mma Ramotswe believes fervently in setting a good example, respecting others and promoting friendships in her own life. Recently married to Mr. J. L. B. Matekone, proprietor of the Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, Mma Ramotswe runs her detective agency (where she doles out homespun advice and often serves as a "mother confessor"), takes care of two orphaned children, mentors Mma Grace Makutsi, her assistant, and endeavors to get the two apprentices at her husband's garage to become responsible citizens. A special pleasure in this novel is the introduction of a wonderful, new character, Mr. Polopetsi, a man with a sad story who will undoubtedly be further developed in later novels.

Throughout the series, plots and subplots serve primarily as vehicles for character development and the exploration of cultural values. In this novel Mma Ramotswe has a deep secret, not shared even with her husband, and she is desperate to have it remain a secret. Her house is broken into, her car is stolen, and Note Makoti, her first husband, returns to Gabarone. Mysterious goings-on occur in Mr. J. L. B.
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46 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Amanda Richards HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on June 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Business is booming for both the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and the Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, but the daily routine is about to be shattered by a series of strange and puzzling events, starting with an unpleasant encounter at Mma Ramotswe's favorite café, an unfortunate intruder at Zebra Drive, and a mysterious pumpkin.

The story does not focus entirely on the traditionally built Mma Ramotswe, but weaves in the experiences of the other characters in one of the most entertaining books of the series.

Mma Makutsi becomes much more self-confident, and in addition to running the Kalahari Typing School for Men, she puts on her best shoes and signs up for dance lessons, where she ends up being more teacher than pupil to her eager but clumsy dancing partner.

Charlie quits his job at the Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors after a spat with Mma Makutsi, but is seen driving around with an older woman in a Mercedes Benz, and the plot thickens when the car turns into the driveway of Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni's former residence.

While following the Mercedes, Mma Ramotswe causes an accident, and this encounter leads to the introduction of an intriguing new character, Mr. Polopetsi, a man with some very useful talents and a troubled past.

But do not think for a minute that Mma Ramotswe gets off without more than her fair share of trouble. She is totally devastated when her ex-husband Note shows up demanding money, and she has to make the hardest decisions of her life while Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni watches and waits.

This one has more action, more intrigue and more humor than the others, and would be enjoyable reading for traditionally built women, people with 97% passing grades, and all the rest of us.

Amanda Richards, June 23, 2005
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful By C. Catherwood on April 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I think this is the best yet - what a shame American readers have had to wait until April to get this wonderful book. (Why can't US publishers bring it out the same time as those in the UK?)

Mme Ramotswe is married! (Or IS she - you will have to read to the middle of the novel to find out.... ) Not only that but Grace Makutsi finds love as well - and to find out THAT happy ending you really will have to read until the last chapter.

Many yuppies (do we still use that term?) love this book, and those in the series, because not much really happens - and that is the whole point! It is both hilariously funny as always, with very sharp observations of human life, and yet profoundly gentle throughout. Life is SLOW, and for many people in the fast lane, that is perfect reading. (And for people who live in the middle lane like me as well...) You can be wonderfully calm reading this book - the whole series is the perfect antidote to the manic life we live in the West, in the 21st century. Five cheers for Alexander McCall Smith!

In one scene, Grace Makutsi meets an odious young woman called Violet, who got only 50% the typing school (Grace, as we will recall, got 97%). But unlike Grace, Violet has all the best jobs and all the men after her - she has one fifteenth of Grace's character and ability, yet gets far because she is glamorous. Haven't we all been there - seeing far less talented people get ahead for reasons that are profoundly unfair? This is what is so good about the Ramotswe novels - they are superb morality tales, showing true values without in any way being preachy.

In short, give this book to all your friends - 10 copies at least! Let's see it go to No.1, which it richly deserves to do, and a good sight more than some so-called fiction out there these days.


Christopher Catherwood (author of CHURCHILL'S FOLLY: HOW WINSTON CHURCHILL CREATED MODERN IRAQ: Carroll and Graf, 2004)
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