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30 March 2010
Review: THE DOUBLE COMFORT SAFARI CLUB, Alexander McCall Smith
#11 in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series.
Following a pattern established in the previous titles in the series, THE DOUBLE COMFORT SAFARI CLUB is really a number of stories connected by the main characters Mma Precious Ramotswe, chief detective of the agency, her assistant Mma Grace Makutse, and Mma Ramotswe's husband Mr J.L.B. Matekoni.
In the first of the 17 connected stories Mr J.L.B Matekoni drives out of Gaborone to assist a female customer whose car has "died". Another car arrives at the breakdown at the same time as he does, and he notices that the man driving the car and the woman whose car has broken down appear to be well acquainted. This story crops up throughout others when Mma Ramotswe is asked by a friend to investigate whether her husband is having an affair.
In another story Mma Makutse's fiance Mr Phute Radiphute suffers a dreadful accident at work and again the ramifications of this story extend throughout the book. In another story we learn of a man who has been duped out of his house by Mma Makutse's arch rival Violet Sepotho. The final story that is really a thread throughout the book is Mma Ramotswe's search for a Safari park guide who has been left a legacy by a wealthy American tourist.
The stories are woven together with a good dose of Precious Ramotswe's home spun Botswanan philosophy. There's a good dose of humour too. The particular episode that made me laugh occurs when our two "traditionally built" ladies are travelling by canoe to the Safari Club. They notice that the rim of the canoe is perilously close to the water. The boatman decides to explain to them what could happen if they move and the boat swamps - what awaits them in the water - hippos, crocodiles, snakes and the like, and then he begins to discuss which would be the best death: being bitten in half by a hippo, or drowned in a roll by a crocodile.
As I've said in other reviews, these are gentle books, easy reads, at the cosy end of the mystery spectrum. They are full of regularly recurring characters whose lives advance just a little with each book. They are not filled with horrific crime, blood is rarely spilled, and I'm struggling to think of one book that features a murder. These are the sort of mysteries that could occur in everyday life. They focus on the values that make life worthwhile.
In the final pages of THE DOUBLE COMFORT SAFARI CLUB Precious Ramotswe is thinking about the legacy of her father the late Obed Ramotswe and the lessons she learned from him about how to lead a good life.
I think it is the essential goodness we see in Precious Ramotswe, how she is such a tower of strength, that keeps me reading these stories. Alexander McCall Smith has fallen into a bit of a pattern in writing these books, even recycling some of the back stories and some of the philosphy from book to book, and some may find that dissatisfying.
My rating 4.3
My reviews on this blog of other books in the series
TEA TIME for the TRADITIONALLY BUILT
THE MIRACLE AT SPEEDY MOTORS