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Precious and Grace: No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (17) (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series) Hardcover – October 11, 2016
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"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Pre-order today
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PRAISE FOR THE NO. 1 LADIES’ DETECTIVE AGENCY SERIES
“Entrancing . . . A tapestry of extraordinary nuance and richness.” —The Wall Street Journal
“The books, like their author, have charm. You cannot overstate the power of this—it’s the missing ingredient in contemporary fiction.”—The Guardian
“Hooked. In thrall. That’s what the reader will be . . . Endearing, amusing, and speckled with truths.” —The Dallas Morning News
“Beguiling . . . McCall Smith’s prose is deceptively simple, with a gift for evoking the earth and sky of Africa.” —The Seattle Times
“A visit with a cast of characters who seem like old and cherished friends.” —St. Petersburg Times
“Utterly charming and deliciously entertaining, [with] characters who are as adept as they are appealing—people who become as familiar as neighbors and as welcome as the best of friends—and who, though steady in their beliefs and devotions, will still constantly surprise and amaze.”—Chicago Tribune
About the Author
ALEXANDER McCALL SMITH is the author of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, and the 44 Scotland Street series. He is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and has served with many national and international organizations concerned with bioethics. He was born in what is now known as Zimbabwe and was a law professor at the University of Botswana. He lives in Scotland.
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The main storyline in Precious and Grace concerns a Canadian woman who spent some of her childhood in Botswana and who comes to the agency hoping to make contact with people that she knew in her childhood. Mma Ramotse and Mma Makutsi have a difference of opinion as to whether the person that they find is the woman's former nursemaid or an imposter. There are also secondary storylines about Mr Polopetsi becoming involved in a pyramid selling scheme and Fanwell from the garage finding a stray dog. In the last couple of books in this series I felt that the sub-plots had been tossed in almost as an afterthought, but this time they were all worked through well and tied back to the central theme. I was genuinely unsure how the main storyline would resolve itself and interested in what was going to happen.
It strikes me that this series is a kind of updated Aesop's fables, with gentle moral lessons integrated into the story (in this case the focus is on forgiveness and on righting wrongs), but not in such a way that it becomes preachy - rather, it's a gentle approach that just makes you think. Kind of like yoga for the soul.
There were too many people who took the view that the past was bad, that we should rid ourselves of all traces of it as soon as possible. But the past was not bad; some of it may have been less than perfect - there had been cruelties then that we had done well to get rid of - but there had also been plenty of good things. There had been the old Botswana ways, the courtesy and the kindness; there had been the attitude that you should find time for other people and not always be in a desperate rush; there had been the belief that you should listen to other people, should talk to them rather than spending all of your time fiddling with your electronic gadgets; there had been the view that it was a good thing to sit under a tree sometimes and look up at the sky and think about cattle or pumpkins or non-electric things like that.
Old Botswana ways actually sound a lot like the ways I was brought up with, and perhaps it is important, as Precious says, not to abandon all the good that existed in those ways in our rush to embrace the "new and improved" modern ways.
That is the philosophy with which Precious faces life and which she tries to impart to those around her, not always successfully to the newly installed co-director of her No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Grace Makutsi.
Grace is always eager to welcome modern innovations and introduce them into her life, including her workplace, sometimes at the expense of more traditional Botswana sensibilities. The "traditionally built" Precious Ramotswe is also traditional in her cautious approach to life and to her work, always weighing the effect that her words and actions may have on others. This difference in ways of thinking inevitably brings some conflicts into their relationship, conflicts which call on Precious' remarkable talents for tact and diplomacy in order to resolve them.
This happens again with their latest case. A Canadian woman who was born and lived the first few years of her life in Botswana returns there and contacts the detectives to try to locate some people from her past. She wants to find the nursemaid who helped care for her and some of her childhood friends. And she wants to see the house where she and her parents lived.
Unfortunately, she doesn't have much to go on. She was a child when they left Botswana and her memories are vague. Her parents are deceased and she doesn't have addresses or the full names of the people she is seeking. Precious and Grace take different views of her request and employ different tactics in fulfilling it. But in the end, somewhat surprisingly, they both get results.
In addition to working on this case, life goes on and brings its daily share of mysteries and problems which Precious tries to solve. Fanwell, the tender-hearted apprentice of her mechanic husband takes on the care of a stray dog - a dog that he has no place to keep and little to feed. Of course, Precious ends up finding a home for this "orphan" dog. Meanwhile, her friend and sometime assistant, the meek and mild Mr. Polopetsi, has managed to get himself entangled in a pyramid scheme and requires the help of Precious to extricate him with his honor intact.
Of course, there are regular visits with Precious' good friend, Silvia Potokwani, the director of the orphan farm, in which large quantities of Mma Potokwani's famous fruit cake are consumed and, as usual, Grace's nemesis, Violet Sepotho, is still causing her heartburn, but this time even Violet seems to be developing into a more gracious and courteous woman. Perhaps Precious is rubbing off on her.
Would that she could rub off on all of us.
There is compassion and sweetness in this book, and its predecessors, and author McCall Smith seems to present these proceedings, characters and setting as the world and society as they ought to be. Reading this book is analogous to eating a pint of Haagan Daz or listening to classic Ella Fitzgerald songs (for me at least) -- it will give you a pleasant buzz and reassurance in the human race for the rest of the day.