Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Book Review: The Double Comfort Safari Club
It's hot right now in West Virginia, good weather for finding a porch with a ceiling fan and a rocking chair. Add a good book and a tall, cool glass of sweet tea and you've found comfort even in the heat of the day. If the book you select is the latest title by Alexander McCall Smith and is part of the Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, you've found double comfort--which is part of the title of the newest entry into the Botswana-based stories about the now legendary Mma Ramotswe.
The Double Comfort Safari Club, like other titles in the series, is not a major crime mystery or even a murder story. The reader follows the leisurely pace of Botswanian life as Precious Ramotswe and her assistant detective Grace Makutsi unravel more common but no less complicated predicaments in the lives of their neighbors and friends. For instance, how to find a safari guide who has been left a large gift--when the giver does not know the name of the guide? Affairs of the heart and of business are the meat of these stories but there is little sentimentality in them, or ruthlessness except on the part of the "bad guys." Mma Ramotswe tackles the most sensitive of problems, such as finding out if a man is indeed having an affair, and with whom, with tact, skill, and occasionally a bit of luck.
I listened to the first book on CD in my car and I am glad that I did because I learned how to pronounce the names of people and places correctly. Not all are easy to figure out in print, and trying to figure them out phonetically will not always be successful. I suppose it really doesn't matter if a reader pronounces Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni's name improperly in the reading however, because his mild, thoughtful nature will be evident no matter how his name is pronounced.
The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency series made me long for a cup of good red bush tea even thought I have never tasted it and have no idea what it might taste like--it surely has restorative powers beyond that of ordinary tea if Mma Ramotswe is to be believed. A friend traveled to Botswana in part because of these books because she needed to see such a land for herself. McCall Smith acknowledges in these stories that the old, courteous ways are slowly dying out, and yet those very ways have captured the imaginations of thousands of readers. We could all use a Mma Ramotswe in our lives--traditionally built, comfortable, sensible, and sensitive, a woman who speaks truth gently but directly, and who always gets to the heart of any problem and solves it by the end of the book.