Book review: 'Limpopo Academy of Private Detection' sweet read

Published: Saturday, April 13 2013 3:00 p.m. MDT

"THE LIMPOPO ACADEMY OF PRIVATE DETECTION: A No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency Novel, No. 13," by Alexander McCall Smith, Anchor Books, $14.95, 257 pages (f)

The stories of detective Precious Ramotswe, her assistant Grace Makutsi and her husband J.L.B. Matekoni in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series are sweet, gentle stories that teach profound lessons about humanity, right and wrong and simple kindnesses.

Mma Ramotswe, the owner of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, is now married to J.L.B. Matekoni, and her assistant, mma Makutsi, is married to a wealthy furniture store owner, Phuti Radiphuti.

They both continue to operate the agency and solve problems that threaten their clients and friends with an amazing combination of common sense and African country wisdom.

Author Alexander McCall Smith is a master at telling a story that not only shares the culture of Botswana, but the heart of its people, and he tells it with humor and grace.

With the appearance of Clovis Andersen, the American man who wrote "The Principles of Private Detection," it would seem the latest installment in the series titled "The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection," is going to be a tome of education about crime solving, but it's not.

Andersen is himself a bit of a mystery, and he has much to learn at the feet of Mma Ramotswe, a traditionally built woman who drives a tiny white van about the African country making things right.

As the story progresses, there's a tangle with the apprentice in J.L.B. Matekoni's auto repair shop when he gets into a fix with dishonest men and serious trouble for Mma Makutsi with the house she and her new husband are trying to build.

The mistress of the children's orphanage, Mma Potokwone, is distressed when changes are made that disrupt the home she has created for children without parents and means.

The simple heroes in this book are impressive in that they don't appear to understand how powerful they are just because they're good people.

They are innocents when it comes to dealing with others who are not as good, yet they triumph.

Mma Ramotswe solves life puzzles more easily than she can solve story problems with her young son. (If one man can dig a ditch in one hour, how long will it take for three men to dig a ditch? Two hours, because the men will get in each other's way.)

She's wholesome, completely kind and smart.

This is the 13th in the Ladies Detective Agency series (just released this year in paperback) and each one somehow keeps a story of heart and compassion without being sad or oppressive even though changes come, bad people interfere and real-life problems appear. It's clean of any coarse language and violence.

Whatever is the matter, a cup of Red Bush Tea and rational thought helps.

If you go ...

What: Alexander McCall Smith book signing

When: Monday, April 15, 7 p.m.

Where: Salt Lake City Public Library, main branch, 210 E. 400 South, Salt Lake City

Web: kingsenglish.com, www.randomhouse.com/features/mccallsmith/main.php

Note: This event is free and open to the public. He will sign all books purchased from The King's English. Additionally, attendees may bring two books from home for signing.

Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.

Email: haddoc@desnews.com

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