Precious Ramotswe is back, in the new paperback edition in The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series by author Alexander McCall Smith, The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party.
Mma Ramotswe has a new and difficult client who she must try to help, but the real focus of the book, as with others in the series, is the gentle reminder to enjoy the beauty in life; and that many of life’s problems, big and small, can eventually be solved with a little gentle tact and caring.
A nervous and not very likable farmer, Mr. Botsalo Moeti, has come to The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency for help in determining just who is behind some attacks on his cattle. As Mma Ramotswe tries to sort out the problem, and just how much she owes a client who may, in his own way, be in the wrong, there are also other complications closer to home.
She has been very much missing her beloved little white van and is unnerved by its possible, ghostly, reappearance.
One of the apprentices at Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni’s garage, Charlie, also has a very big (and very little) problem that involves his imprudent girlfriend Prudence.
Plans for the wedding of assistant detective Mma Makutsi and her fiance Phuti Radiphuti are in full swing, but Mma Makutsi has some doubts that Phuti is taking care of his side of the planning. She is also having a difficult “conversation” with brand new pair of beautiful white wedding shoes. An added distraction — her ultimate nemesis and former classmate from the Botswana Secretarial College, Violet Sephotho, is running for a seat in Botswana’s parliament, a fact that appalls Mma Makutsi.
The only disappointment in this entry to the series might be that Mma Ramotswe’s and Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni’s two adopted children, Motholeli and Puso, are so relegated to the background of the story that they have almost completely disappeared. It would be nice if Mr. McCall Smith would follow up on his earlier hints that the wheelchair-bound Motholeli, who showed an interest and talent for mechanics, might want to join her father at Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, and take on a more prominent role.
Mma Ramotswe uses her charm and smarts to resolve most of the novel’s issues in her usual gentle and pleasant way, but The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party also has some undercurrents of unrest. As much as Botswana is praised as a wonderful place that still honors the “old values,” there are glimpses into the difficult life that people outside of a city like Gaborone face, with the characters of a mother and child who live on a farm and are in thrall to the new owner. McCall Smith wants to look at the bright side of life in most of his writing, but he also wants to remind his readers that there is still much poverty and suffering in Africa.
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series continues to delight, and Precious Ramotswe and all of her friends and extended family are still people we want to spend some time with, attending The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party, under the broad blue skies of Botswana, sipping red bush tea.