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In Alexander McCall Smith's "Tea Time for the Traditionally Built," the proprietor of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Precious Ramotswe, is in mourning over her decades old tiny white van. The beloved vehicle is making terrible noises and is probably headed for the junk heap. The idea of parting from the van that has been an important part of her life for so long is breaking Mma Ramotswe's heart. Meanwhile, the prickly and outspoken Grace Makutsi, Mma Ramotswe's assistant, has troubles of her own. Her arch enemy, the glamorous and scheming Violet Sephotho, has landed a sales job in the Double Comfort Furniture Shop, whose owner is Phuti Radiphuti, Grace's fiancé. It is obvious to the furious Mma Makutsi that Violet is determined to steal Phuti away from her. In addition, Precious and Grace are hired by Mr. Leungo Molofololo, the owner of a losing football team, to find out why his formerly successful Kalahari Swoopers are suddenly doing so badly.

McCall Smith again delivers a gentle, heartfelt, and humorous look at life in the African country of Botswana. Precious is a thoughtful, unhurried, and compassionate person, who cares deeply for her husband, Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni, the proprietor of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, and their two foster children, the wheelchair-bound Motholeli and her younger brother, Puso. Mma Ramotswe refuses to apologize for her "traditional build," and she has contempt for "these very thin model ladies" who will someday "be blown away by the wind." Day by day, Precious deals with the ups and downs of life by drinking cup after cup of refreshing red bush tea and applying an ample dose of common sense to every problem that arises.

Writing simple and eloquent prose without being maudlin is no mean feat, but Alexander McCall Smith makes it look easy. In addition, he captivates us with amusing dialogue and outlandish situations that are often laugh-out loud funny. The author has a unique gift of drawing the reader into the special world that he has created, a world that is inhabited by ordinary people to whom we can all relate. They struggle with money problems, jealously, anxiety, and frustration, just like the rest of us. Presiding over this universe is the formidable Precious Ramotswe, a woman who appreciates the beauty and tranquility of her country and clings to its old-fashioned values. She always gives full attention to those who need to pour out their hearts, and she tenaciously adheres to the principles that her father taught her. Mma Ramotswe treats everyone with respect, kindness, and sensitivity, believing that "until you hear the whole story, until you dig deeper, and listen, you know only a tiny part of the goodness of the human heart."
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Not believing that "progress" necessarily improves Botswana society, Mma Precious Ramotswe, the "traditionally built" owner of the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency in Gaborone, has decided that cars are among the biggest agents of change, making people lazy. She has therefore decided to walk the two miles each way to her office, located beside the garage where her husband Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni operates a car repair service. She secretly admits, however, that the real reason she is walking is that her beloved (and famous) little white van, now twenty-two years old, is making strange noises, and she fears that when Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni hears them that he will decide her little van can no longer be repaired.

More sentimental and less plot-based than some of the earlier novels in this endearing series, Tea Time for the Traditionally Built intersperses local stories, gossip, and legends among several (sometimes thin) plot lines--Mma Ramotswe's love for her little white van and her unhappiness about its possible future; the mysterious case of the Kalahari Swoopers, a great football team that is losing too many games; the fate of the romance between Mma Grace Makutsi and her fiancé, Mr. Phuti Radiphuti, after he hires glamorous (and designing) Violet Sephotho to work in his furniture shop; and the case of a woman who is trying to live with two husbands.

Mma Ramotswe's innate kindness, and her belief that "there is plenty of work for love to do," dominate her life: "We [are] all at the mercy of chance...," she says, "and when we dismiss or deny the hopes of others...we forget that they, like us, have only one chance in this life." Her husband, Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni, is equally thoughtful, donating one day every two weeks to help a needy friend keep abreast of his work. Characters familiar to readers of earlier novels also make their appearances here: Charlie, Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni's apprentice, still does not like to work; Mr. Polopetsi, a man saved from disaster in a previous novel, offers advice to Mma Ramotswe; and Mma Potokwane, who runs the orphanage, drifts in and out of the action here, too, always in need of help.

"Cozy," in the warmest sense of the word, the novel makes readers feel good about life, about principled women like Mma Ramotswe, about the pace of life which allows people to slow down and be kind, and about the value of communication and good will in solving problems. Though Mma Makutsi believes that "The trouble with this country [is] that there are too many people sitting down in other people's chairs." Mma Ramotswe, by contrast, believes "that not enough of us [are] prepared to share our chairs." n Mary Whipple

The Miracle at Speedy Motors (No1 Ladies Detective Agency 9)
The Kalahari Typing School for Men: More from the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
The Full Cupboard of Life (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Book 5)
In the Company of Cheerful Ladies (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Book 6)
The World According to Bertie, part of the delightfully different "44 scotland street" series
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on May 20, 2009
I didn't enjoy this as much as previous books in the series. I don't know if I was just not in the right mood for it, or if the book wasn't that compelling. All of the books have a very comfortable feel to them, like hanging out with interesting neighbors. In this book, the neighbors are having an off day.

The mystery of the under-performing football team led to some interesting observations on human nature. I think there are a lot of similar conversations happening locally as we have the mystery of the under-performing hockey team. I didn't have any problems with this story line, but it wasn't enough to carry the book.

A second storyline involved Mma Makutsi and her nemesis from her secretarial school days, Violet Sephotho. Violet has decided that Mma Makutsi's fiancé, Mr. Phuti Radiphuti, is too good for Mma Makutsi,and she decides to claim him for herself. I liked the storyline, but I had some problems with how it was handled. Fairly early on, we have a couple of scenes where the reader sees Violet with Mr. RadiPhuti, putting this plot line in action. Everything after that we see from Mma Makutsi's POV. I would have liked this to be consistent through the book. Either POV would have been fine with me. In addition, although the Violet story is wrapped up, I didn't feel a sense of resolution at the end with Mma Makutsi and Mr. Phuti Radiphuti.

I'm not sure if the fate of Mma Ramotswe's tiny white van makes it to plotline, or if it is a running thread. It is a sweet story, and may be setting up a plot for the next book.

There were a number of other small stories and themes running through the book. I think the cultural observations that came out of discussions of chairs and walking and other subjects were some of the most interesting parts of the books.

Throughout the book, there was a lot of foreshadowing of dire events, which never came to pass. I'm not sure if this is a statement in itself, or another set up for the next book, or if I just have an over active imagination.

I listened to the audiobook. The narrator was wonderful as always, and really adds to the experience for me.

Fans of the series will enjoy this. Casual readers can decide whether or not they want to pick it up. I would not start reading with this book.
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Occasionally I can't sleep because I lie in bed worrying. This always bemuses my husband, who usually offers well intentioned but essentially useless 2am advice like "think nice thoughts". Better advice would be to pick up one of the books in the "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" series. They are "warm fuzzy" reading, set in a dreamlike Botswana where the sun always shines, people have plenty of time to talk to one another and nothing gets in the way of a good cup of tea.

This is the 10th book in this delightful series. If you are new to it, count yourself lucky at the treats that you have in store, but be aware that it is best to read the books in order. (Apparently Alexander McCall Smith is contracted to write 14, so there will be more). The title refers to Mma Ramotswe, with her love of tea and her pride in her large build which some may call fat, but which she prefers to refer to as "traditionally built". While Mma Ramotswe is the central heroine, McCall Smith is now juggling a large and disparate cast of characters, each with their own dramas. Essentially this series is a soap opera - while ostensibly about a private detective, the mysteries are only a small part of the books. I was lucky enough to see Alexander McCall Smith talking about this book and he cheerfully said that he takes pride in the fact that nothing happens in his books, being of the view that there is quite enough happening in the world without authors adding to it!

Of course saying that nothing happens is an exaggeration. In this instalment, Mma Ramotswe's tiny white van has finally broken down, seemingly for good. Meanwhile Charlie the apprentice is dealing with a young lady who is claiming that her baby is his responsibility. Mma Rakutsi (Mma Ramotswe's assistant) is still engaged to Phuti Radiphuti, but Violet Sephotho plays a major role as she gets a job in the Double Comfort store with the sole aim of moving in on him for herself. And as ever, between solving cases (this time she's focusing on the local women's soccer team) Mma Ramotswe gives lovely little reflections on ethics and best detective practices.

This is a lovely book which lives up in every way to its predecessors. My only regret is that I now have to wait a year for the next.
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VINE VOICEon December 8, 2009
In what is surely one of McCall Smith's finest books in the "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" a truly wondrous mystery is presented to Mma Ramotswe and her assistance Mma Makutsi. The book centers around the solving of a problem with the local Soccer Club and why after such a great performance as a winning club, the team should start to lose game after game. In resolving the case, so many of "The Principles of Private Detection," Mma Ramotswe's `bible' of her craft, are put to use. The author of this book, Clovis Anderson, often gives advice about Private Detection that Mma Ramotswe uses and applies to her job every day. Such things are well represented in this story and are of significant usefulness in almost everyone's private and public life.

Through the use of good, old fashioned detective work combined with insightful ratiocination and some helpful hints from her son Puso, Mma Ramotswe is able to get to the bottom of the problem with the soccer team. Along the way to this resolution, she assists her assistant in putting to rest a concern which threatens her relationship with her fiancé, Phuti Radiphuti, and her concern that he may be stolen away by Mma Makutsi's old nemesis, Violet Sephotho. It is very much one of the attractions of McCall Smith's writing that his characters appear over and over in his books and that they continue to be developed as the books are written in the series. This book is no exception in this regard and the reader can look forward to not only meeting with the two Mma's again, but also hearing about Mma Ramotswe's husband, J.L.B. Matekoni and his two apprentice mechanics. In fact in this book, the second apprentice, Fanwell, is developed as a character. In previous books, most of the development of the apprentices has centered upon Charlie, who is the more forward of the pair. But in this volume, McCall Smith takes time to utilize Fanwell's character and to develop him as a sensitive and caring individual who takes care of a large family as he works his way toward the completion of his mechanic's apprenticeship.

Faithful readers of this series will recognize McCall Smith's life lessons in ethical behavior and might even be enlightened by his words. Smith is an expert in the field of bioethics and has served on many boards and groups devoted to the resolution of questions in that field. Issues of ethical behavior come up aplenty in this book, and Smith helps his characters find their way through those moments of common human doubt to a place of moral satisfaction. Thus Smith is true to form in this, his tenth installment in the series of "The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency."

As is usually the case, the reader may feel that the book ends too soon. This feeling is a welcome one, in a world of often verbose authors whose books seem to go on for 50 to 100 pages or more too much. But in the case of McCall Smith, the opposite is usually true. This book proves to be no exception to that general feeling. The book is very highly recommended to all readers interested in detective novels and in ethical human behavior. Of all Smith's books in the series, this one is particularly satisfying and makes a very suitable and enjoyable read.
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on August 10, 2009
4.5 stars. It is impossible to duplicate the experience of reading the original No.1 Ladies Detective Agency for the first time and thus the tenth book in this series loses a half star in comparison and surprise. But only half a star. If you have read the first volume, then you know what to expect: a wide swath of the heart of modern Africa negotiating the modern and traditional worlds, the human comedy and the mysteries that are deceptively gentle and seemingly not real mysteries at all, at least not of the kind that make up most of the ranks of the genre. However, Tea Time for the Traditionally Built is a strong performance, stronger than some of the more recent volumes.

In Tea Time, Mma Precious Ramotswe, that traditionally built (i.e., large) lady, feels squeezed by the speed at which her Africa is hurtling into the future. An urban entrepreneur, she nonetheless does her best to keep village social manners alive and the best of the rural past remembered, but she worries that what she loves most will disappear. In fact, her beloved white van that we all know she should give up has been sent to the scrap yard and she's having trouble appreciating the new blue van with amenities that her husband acquired in its place. But she also dreads that something will happen to her husband and worries about the generation orphaned by the AIDS epidemic. Meanwhile, she and her assistant, Grace Makutsi, are investigating a soccer team at the behest of the owner, to determine if players are deliberately throwing games. Grace is tormented by the return of Violet Sephoto, a beauty queen of a former classmate who has turned up this time to steal away Grace's fiancé.

Just when you are thinking, "how sweet, how simple," the shrewd sketches and breadth of humanity in the book become apparent. And you have to appreciate a mystery story in which one of the conclusions reached is that the more you find out about another human being, the more good you uncover.
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on December 31, 2009
I love this series for its gentle wit and commentary on the human condition. Precious Ramotswe and her friends and family are approaching literary treasurehood. Author Alexander McCall-Smith's latest episode of the series, "Tea Time for the Traditionally Built" should be rated right up with the best of these short novels for its story line, insight into human nature and, most of all, humor.

If you are among the last one or two readers on the planet who have not given this series (No.1 Ladies Detective Agency) a whirl, you're missing some wonderfully entertaining stuff that always leaves you feeling a little better about the future of humankind--at least the branch that resides in Gaberone, Botswana where Precious Ramostswe is in business as the country's only private detective.

In "Tea Time...", the lady detectives take on the mystery of a failing professional football team, face a threat to Mma Makutsi's engagement from one of Gaberone's premier "mean girls,, and deal with the loss of a very old friend--Precious Ramotswe's little white van. The wit and wisdom that characterizes all of the books is front and center throughout this story, but there are also some real laugh-out-loud moments, particularly, as the intrepid sleuths ponder the Mars/Venus differences between the genders and, not surprisingly, find (with forgiveness) that women are superior in every way.

It was great to be back in Botswana with this story. Let's hope that Alexander McCall-Smith never gets bored with this wonderful series.
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VINE VOICEon September 1, 2009
Plot Summary: Precious Ramotswe and her assistant Grace Makutsi are back in action in this 10th installment (geez, have there really been this many?) of the No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. Mma Ramotswe is trying to save her beloved small white van from the junk yard, and Mma Makutsi is trying to hang onto her fiance, Phuti Rhadiphuti. Grace's nemesis, the beautiful and crafty Violet Sephotho, has been hired by Phuti as a salesperson in his furniture store's bed department, and Violet has a real knack for the job. Finally, the owner of a losing football team hires Mma Ramotswe to find the traitor who is throwing the games.

I continue to be charmed by stories about Mma Ramotswe. I was feeling a bit down today, and this book was an effective antidote for my sour mood. I suppose my only gripe is that I'm hesitant to pay hardcover prices for a book that clocks in at 200 pages. These books are like brief sweet treats, and the length is perfect for reading through a long, lazy afternoon.

The cases this time around were lighthearted compared to past books, and I felt just as ignorant as the ladies when it came to understanding football (aka soccer). Smith has a deft touch when it comes to illustrating the differences between men and women, the young and the old, and the rich and the poor. All these people mesh in Mma Ramotswe's small sphere and they benefit from her benevolent wisdom.

Mma Matuski was especially annoying and tactless this time around, but her few redeeming qualities are worth solid sterling, and Grace certainly didn't deserve to lose her fiance to evil pretty-girl Violet. This engagement sure is lasting a long time, and I suppose that Grace will need to twist Phuti's arm to get him to the alter. The solutions at the end were simple, surprising, and what I savour the most is the journey along the way.
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on August 14, 2009
This is the last in the series of ten books about a lady living in Botswana. The stories are interesting and entertaining. They give you a look at this ladies' life as she goes about solving little mysteries. These are pleasant stories with little glimpses of morality tucked in. The book gives you a snapshot of what life is like in her country and how much she loves her country. The characters are well thought out and seem very real. These books are creatively written to impart a bit of wisdom here and there. Somehow, they make you feel good.
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VINE VOICEon June 30, 2009
I love this series, but this tenth installment just didn't do it for me. I found it hard to get through the book in one sitting. Never quite engaged with the story. The thread in the story that most touched me was the demise of Mma Ramotswe's beloved white van. Precious is extremely upset over the van's final failure. Running concurrently with this story was the reappearance of Mma Makutsi's nemisis Violet Sephotho from her secretarial school days. Violet ends up working for Mma Makutsi's soon-to-be husband Phuti.

The main story line/mystery was that of a losing soccer team. The owner suspects that the team is losing due to human intervention rather than bad luck and wants The Number One Detective Agency to look into it.

McCall Smith brings his usual imagery of Botswana into play. At times you can feel the heat and the slide of Bush tea down your throat as you take a rest from the midday. The warm humor and character descriptions that McCall Smith has developed throughout the series are interwoven throughout the story.

There is some foreshadowing of things to come...perhaps in Book 11?

Worth reading if you are a follower of the series. If this is your first foray into Precious Ramotswe's world, then I would start with The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (Book 1)
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