The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection, by Alexander McCall Smith, is the latest in the charming series of books featuring Precious Ramotswe, the principal detective and owner of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency in Botswana. In this edition, Ramotswe’s good friend and manager of the local orphanage is dismissed after disagreeing with the governing board over a building plan. The board’s decision maker is a local businessman with questionable influence, and it is up to Ramotswe and the visiting author of her private detection bible, Clovis Andersen, to determine his motive for the building plan and the orphanage manager’s dismissal.
The book opens with Andersen, the author of The Principles of Private Detection, making a surprise visit to Ramotswe. Ramotswe has used his book as a reference from the beginning of her career. To his chagrin, she and her assistant quote his advice and refer to situations he described in his book. The reader begins to suspect that Andersen has a secret of his own.
The book is full of quirkiness, multi-layered stories, and commonsense, even heart-warming advice. In addition to the surprising dismissal of Ramotswe’s friend, the arrest of one of her husband’s employees, and a mysterious situation with her associate’s new home also present challenges for the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency to resolve.
Grace Makutsi is Ramotswe’s associate detective, and brings quirkiness to the story. Grace believes that her shoes talk to her. In fairness to Makutsi, she didn’t own shoes in her impoverished childhood, so they feature large in her life. As Smith explains Makutsi’s mindset, “One must be prepared . . . for at least some criticism from one’s footwear, the occasional sharp comment, the odd note of jealousy sounded by working shoes of party shoes—that sort of thing.”
Ramotswe interjects advice from time to time, both to Makutsi and to her clients, which reflects her understanding of human behavior. When Makutsi is outraged that a building contractor won’t talk to her but only to her husband, Ramotswe offers, “A rude person wants you to be rude back to him. He really likes that. But if you just smile and are very polite, then he will realize that his rudeness has not hurt you. He has achieved nothing.”
The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection will whet the reader’s appetite for the previous books and look forward to the next one. The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection was published by Pantheon books in 2012.