86 of 95 people found the following review helpful
I have really enjoyed this series - now up to number 12 I think with this installment. It is unique in many ways and teaches many lessons about life.
When I first heard about the series, it was on book 6. It worked out well, because I had so many books to read without having to wait. Now, I am all caught up, so the year between books seems like a very long time. It is like having to wait before getting to see an old friend again - well, the old friend in this case has come back for a visit!
Besides the more obvious things like the great characters in the series - after a while they seem like you actually know them as you would real people - what I really liked about the series is the detail about Botswana and life there. And so much of it is positive, unlike so much of what you hear about Africa these days. The books also teach many lessons useful to people everywhere, but from a Botswana/African perspective that can really shine a light where it needs to shine sometimes.
The first book was especially good in portraying the Botswana background and viewpoint - I assume accuracy here as the author lived there a long time. The author seemed to move away from this as the series progressed; a disappointment for me, even though the books were still interesting. The good news is that I think the author is headed back in the right direction here with the last few books.
As an aside, the TV series is great too; last time I looked into the matter, it does not look like the series with continue into a second season, but there is talk of a movie which is better than nothing. Most of the characters in the TV series were about as I had pictured them from the book - the main exception being Mma Makutsi. The actress that played her did a great job though; she just looked a little different from how I had pictured her from the book.
Now on to the new book itself. I am happy to see that this new book stays closer to the series roots in many respects showing us some more about the real Botswana. The overall plot seems very vigorous too. I won't go into that too much as readers usually like a surprise, but here's a look at main story lines in the new book without giving things away.
Remember the tiny white van that Mma Precious Ramotswe has been so attached to in the series? It is gone, but she is seeing visions of it. Hmm, that sounds like an interesting phenomenon. Where will this go? You'll have to read the book to find out.
At a cattle post, two cows have been killed, and Mma Ramotswe is asked to investigate. Lots of suspects as it turns out, making it a challenge for our favorite Botswanan lady detective. Does she solve the mystery? No spoilers here, you'll have to read the book to find out.
One of Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni's apprentices may have gotten a girl pregnant; he runs away when pressure builds to marry her. Will those young men ever finish their apprenticeships and stay out of trouble?
The "villianess", Violet Sephotho, is back. Remember her? She did horribly at the secretarial college when Mma Makutsi was there and shows up now and then to make poor Grace miserable. Anyway, Violet is running for the Botswana Parliament. They'd have to be desperate to elect her. What is up with this? Well, you'll have to open up the book to find out.
And a perfect pair of wedding shoes - series fans will be pretty sure that the "shoephile" Mma Makutsi must be involved with those. Will Phuti Radiphuti finally marry Grace? The title of the book seems to refer to a wedding happening, but will it be Grace's or for the run away apprentice? Again, I won't tell here - you'll have to read the book.
Lots of interesting things are in store for readers here. I hope that series fans will come back and read this latest book, meet favorite characters again, be entertained, and learn something about Botswana and life in general as well.
35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Here are some of the things that make us smile: the sight of a beautiful baby, a glorious spring day, a sincere compliment, and a new installment, "The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party," in Alexander McCall Smith's wonderful series featuring Precious Ramotswe. The "traditionally built" Mma Ramotswe is happily married to Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni, proprietor of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, and along with her associate, the bespectacled and highly efficient Grace Makutsi, contentedly operates the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency in Gaborone. Little has changed, except that the date of Grace's wedding to Mr. Phuti Radiphuti is drawing near. The bride has a great deal to do to get ready for this momentous event.
Meanwhile, Mma Ramotswe has never quite gotten over the loss of her beloved little white van. Although she is now driving a new blue van, she cannot help but remember that her original vehicle was a treasured companion with its own unique personality. One day, she is shocked to see someone else driving her little white van. Surely she is imagining things, since no less a mechanic than her husband had declared that to restore the white van would require a "miracle-worker." Another matter preoccupying Mma Ramotswe is a case involving the destruction of cattle belonging to her new client, Mr. Botsalo Moeti. In Botswana, where cattle are greatly valued, this is a serious crime. Who could hate Mr. Moeti enough to commit such a foul deed? In addition, Charlie, the ne'er-do-well perpetual apprentice who works for Mr. Matekoni, has always had a way with the ladies. However, is he man enough to live up to his personal responsibilities? Grace and Precious are determined to make him do so.
McCall Smith enthralls us with this tender and often humorous tale in which the gentle spirit of his characters shines through. With his delicate and beautifully etched prose, perfectly pitched dialogue, and understanding of the need we all have for love, respect, and acceptance, the author casts his usual spell. We can almost feel the strong rays of the sun and see the brilliant stars twinkling in the Botswana sky. Furthermore, we cannot help but appreciate Mma Ramotswe's unerring tact, common sense, and adherence to the old ways; Mr. Matekoni's kindness and integrity; and Grace's pride in a job well done. "The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party" is a delightful slice of life, with heroes, villains, and people who are a bit of both, all trying to get along in a difficult and sometimes bewildering world. It is charmingly whimsical and as satisfying as a cup of freshly brewed red bush tea.
59 of 70 people found the following review helpful
on March 30, 2011
While we are treated to many of the author's gentle and insightful observations on humanity and morality throughout this latest entry in the series, those are really all that can recommend it. There are no new characters and no character development of our beloved regulars. There is only one official detective case, and the "resolution" of the case is unsatisfying. I fear that AMS is spreading himself too thin amongst his various literary endeavors.
It is a bad sign and discouraging to a reader when an author forgets previous details in a series. In this novel, he has Mr. Matekoni express doubt that women can or would want to be mechanics. And yet his own daughter showed herself very much interested and promising in this area when she was first introduced to us. AMS has never followed up on this. The children do not even make an appearance in this novel.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Seriously, it just doesn't get any better than this. I was so glad to be back with old friends in this latest release. Seems like it's been forever since I've seen them. I love this series and each book offers so much in a nice relaxed read. This one is no different. It is hard to put down and you want to read the next chapter just to see what everyone is up to and what will be next in each character's life. I love these books and this one is just as good as any of the other books in this series. I highly recommend this book...it's like a big bowl of creamy homemade macaroni and cheese.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on April 2, 2011
You know, I agree this is not a work of literary genius, I agree it will never win the Pulitzer or be recognised as a world-changing book, I agree that there is not much of a story in this current edition. However, I also agree that this series is one of the sweetest and most heart-warming I have read. I am forever touched by the display of patriotism/love for Botswana, and the real human values in this book (idealistic though they may sometimes be). It really is a quick wonderful read, and I hope to see many more on the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 30, 2011
To the followers of this bestselling series, it comes as no surprise when the title contains "Big Tent Wedding Party" and "Saturday" that the date has been set for Precious Ramotswe's assistant, Grace Makutsi, to get married. This was not a sure thing when last we tuned in. Grace's fiancé, the rich and handsome Gabarone businessman Phuti Radiphuti, was spirited away by his auntie after a serious accident in which he nearly lost his life, and ultimately his foot. His doting auntie disapproved of his marriage to what she considered an inferior woman, a mere secretary. But the love and determination of our two fearless lady detectives prevailed, and the big day is at hand.
Not without adventures, though. Mma Ramotswe uncharacteristically takes on a murder investigation of a sort. The cases that cross the desk of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency are rarely felonious. The agency's brand of detecting leans toward working things out in a civil manner, leaving the solving of murders to the police. But cattle are highly valued in Botswanan society, and her new client is a rancher who has lost two of his valuable animals to a vicious attacker who appears to have a vendetta against him. Further, the rancher is suspiciously reluctant to take the case to the police. Precious, who can spot a lie and its author from a thousand yards, also knows that uncovering the truth is not always as simple. This mysterious case leads down many twisted paths of misinformation, and she must finally settle for resolution rather than a solution. This, as we all know, is her area of expertise.
The beloved tiny white van --- mourned by Precious after her husband, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, known as the best mechanic in Botswana, declared it beyond repair and consigned it to a junk dealer --- suddenly appears out of a cloud of dust before disappearing over a hill. Precious gives chase in her sparkling new van, which serves her purposes perfectly, but it's NOT her tiny white van. The spectral van, complete with an identifying dent in the fender, vanishes while she wonders out loud if machines have ghosts. After Grace spots it, and then Charlie, the apprentice mechanic in her husband's garage, sees it, the hunt is on.
Meanwhile, the incorrigible Charlie has finally gone too far. He is accused of fathering the twins of the daughter of a prominent local businessman, and a reckoning is called for. Confronted with the information and possible consequences, Charlie, true to form, disappears, and it falls on Precious to sort it all out.
In preparing for her wedding, Grace is confronted with one last important acquisition --- the right shoes. She has a special relationship with her shoes and has been known to carry on conversations with them. This pair is no exception, and she's confronted with a quandary with her husband-to-be.
THE SATURDAY BIG TENT WEDDING PARTY is another delightful visit to Botswana through the eyes and heart of the man who may love it more than any other author. There are lovely passages of the sights, sounds and smells of the country he loves, or loved in its glory days. There are also ruminations about the inevitable changes that modernization is bringing to the old customs. Alexander McCall Smith has created a memoir of a country and its people that has charmed its readers through 11 volumes. There is no one quite like Mma Ramotwse and her friends who live on Zebra Lane.
--- Reviewed by Roz Shea
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Like many of the other reviewers, I agree that Alexander McCall Smith's newest No. 1 Detective Agency novel reminds me of why I started reading the series when it began. The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party has his formula -- the main crime as the center of the wheel with the spokes being the interactions between Mma Ramotswe and the other characters in the sub-plots -- soldered together by his heartwarming and charming storytelling. The last few books were disappointments, but this one is not. It would fit very well within the first few in terms of the quality of the writing, the mystery to be solved, and the old Botswana ways of kindness and politeness.
The book also serves as a way to tie up the long-coming wedding of Phuti Radiphuti and Grace Makutsi, Mma Ratotswe's right-hand person and huge fan of shoes (that tend to talk with her). Don't expect the actual event to be a big part of the book, despite its title, though. But I won't spoil that here. However, we won't have to worry about McCall Smith stringing us along with that storyline any further.
The crime in the book is handled in the way you would expect Mma Ramotswe to address such a crime -- one that involves cattle, a big part of her legacy. However, I'm not sure I agree that the punishment fit the crime. But again, I won't spoil it for the reader.
Two characters who are suspiciously absent, however, are her adopted children. I hope he brings them back in the next book.
Overall, I would recommend The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party for readers of this series who might be concerned that the series has gone downhill. Let me assure you that this novel has put McCall Smith right back on his original path.
16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Lots of words and little plot.
Have read all the books in the series and too much time is spent on rehashing events from previous books.
I looked forward to this book but it a was disappointment.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2011
For any writer dragging out an originally 230-page novel into its 12th volume, there are two issues: first the writer knows that it is easier to create a new novel as the sometimes tiring and not loved need to create character is no longer required; and, secondly, it is harder to be "good" as there is the inevitable "thinning."
In the world of books, like any other art industry, a time arrives when a series has "jumped the shark" or "nuked the fridge." And, after reading this book, I began trepidly wondering if the author had jumped his shark. Many romance novelists are being accused of this faux pas, and Alexander McCall Smith may soon be accused of the same. I say this as a great fan. This is meant with the utmost respect. And, I may receive the wrath of other fans for saying this. But, it is the truth.
A few points in this novel must be fleshed out. First, the intriguing and inquiring mind of the lead character is not fully brought out. The chess-playing master, Mma Precious Ramotswe, can only show her talents off in the end - and they are so much more obvious than her previous escapades that her genius is diluted.
Secondly, the children of Precious seem to have fallen off the earth. Somehow, when she and her husband, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, adopt two children in impoverished Botswana, they continue their respective full and hard working days at their offices while the children seem to survive without much demand. No school functions, no athletic events, and no other matters involving the children come into play in this book. Anyone who has children knows the great change a child makes in a married couple's life. In this case, it is two children that the couple have adopted - and somehow their entry into the family home does not affect the business, financial or personal, of either parent. This cannot be.
Thirdly, the secretary of Precious, Mma Grace Makutsi, is getting too large a role. She is intentionally bossy, boring and opinionated - a great contrast to the even keeled Ramotswe. But, as her issues fill greater percentages of the printed pages of his novels, McCall Smith must also acknowledge that he is requiring the topic to focus upon a minor-league character in a major-league environment.
This is not the best of the series. In fact, it is one of the least effective. And, the writing is also thinning. There are passages of love for a van, and love for a wife which are strong, but the abilities of McCall Smith - known well by many who have read so many of his novels - are not best displayed in this novel.
I hope the author "picks it up" for the next novel. If more of the same is to come, like an aging athlete, he may want to hang up this series and start a new one with a clean slate. And that is not asking much of this prolific writer. He has three other series being printed. And, the 44 Scotland Series, much newer in vintage, I believe has surpassed this series in content and style. I could not have said that four years ago.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I am a devoted fan of the NO 1 LADIES'S DETECTIVE AGENCY.This one was truly a Cinderella tale. Precious, Grace, Charlie and even the characters in the cattle case get their wish. The only mystery now is whether or not this is the end of a delightful series. I hope not. Also kudos to Alexander McCall Smith who has given me and many others an insight into a country I wish to visit now.Also I am sure that he has inspired tourism to Botswana as well as an understanding of a culture which shares universal human aspirations.