Monday, October 24, 2016

Review of "The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party" by Alexander McCall Smith




In this addition to the "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" series - set in Botswana - Mma Makutski plans her long-awaited wedding to Phuti Radiphuti while Mma Ramotswe handles a difficult case.

Mma Ramotswe, the detective agency owner, is approached by Mr. Botsalo Moeti, a cattle farmer who reports that two of his cows were purposely maimed. Mr. Moeti doesn't want to contact the police and asks Mma Ramotswe to investigate. The detective drives to the client's farm and finds a fairly common situation: Mr. Moeti bullies his servants and pays them poorly. Further inquiries reveal that the client is a difficult man who quarrels with his neighbor about fences and wandering cattle. So there are plenty of suspects for the cow injuries.

As the case proceeds Mma Ramotswe acquires troubling information and, not sure what to do, consults "The Principles of Private Detection" by Clovis Anderson. This is the book that launched Mma Ramotswe on her detective career and serves as her investigative 'bible.' As always Mma Ramotswe exhibits common sense, sagacity, and thoughtfulness as she solves the case of the injured cattle.

While Mma Ramotswe is detecting Mma Makutsi is making wedding arrangements. She has to get wedding shoes (a happy chore that doesn't go quite right), make a guest list, arrange accomodations for relatives, organize two wedding feasts, etc. To add to her worries Mma Makutski has to deal with a greedy uncle who demands too many cattle for the bride price. It's interesting to read about wedding customs in other cultures and I enjoyed these parts of the book. Also the beef stew, mashed pumpkin, fruit cake and other wedding foods sound very tasty. (Yum!)

As all this is going on both ladies have something else on their minds. Through the grapevine they've heard that Charlie - apprentice to Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni (Mma Ramotswe's husband) at Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors - abandoned the girl who gave birth to his twin babies. Mma Makuski, in her usual combative fashion, gives Charlie 'what for.' And Charlie calls her a warthog and runs off. So Mma Ramotswe - wanting Charlie to do the right thing - has to deal with this issue as well.

I enjoyed this cozy mystery but the case and side issues are less engaging than other books in the series. Moreover the resolution of the problems has a 'fairy tale' whiff...too convenient to be believed. Still, it's nice to visit with the familiar likable characters as they go about their everyday lives. I can just picture Mma Ramotswe sitting on the porch after dinner, sipping bush tea, and thinking deep thoughts.

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