Blue Shoes and Happiness (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series #7)
  • Blue Shoes and Happiness (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series #7)
  • Blue Shoes and Happiness (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series #7)

Blue Shoes and Happiness (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series #7)

4.2 41
by Alexander McCall Smith
     
 

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From internationally best-selling author Alexander McCall Smith comes the seventh novel in the phenomenally popular and endlessly charming series that began with The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. Once again Botswana's only female detective, Mma Ramotswe, and her invaluable assistant, Mma Makutsi, puzzle out the mysteries of life while finding comfort in steaming

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Overview

From internationally best-selling author Alexander McCall Smith comes the seventh novel in the phenomenally popular and endlessly charming series that began with The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. Once again Botswana's only female detective, Mma Ramotswe, and her invaluable assistant, Mma Makutsi, puzzle out the mysteries of life while finding comfort in steaming mugs of bush tea.

Danger hits close to home when a cobra is found in Mma Ramotswe's office. Of less immediate danger, but greater general interest, are the faulty blood pressure measurements being recorded at the local clinic. But perhaps the biggest mystery is why Mma Makutsi's fiancé has missed their usual dinner date. Is he discontented? And if so, will cramming her feet into a pair of fashionable blue shoes help Mma Makutsi find happiness? Full of subtle wit and charming characters, Blue Shoes and Happiness is another unforgettable gem from McCall Smith.

"The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series is a literary...

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
It was a shrewd idea to get the veteran actress and audiobook prize winner Lecat to perform this version of Smith's latest mystery starring the unforgettable Botswana detective Precious Ramotswe. Lecat is a native South African who grew up hearing the authentic accents of women just like Ramotswe, and she gives the character the perfect notes of a real person rather than slipping into caricature. Indeed, Lecat has as good an ear for the ethnic turf covered as the author does. She is also adept at making other female characters, such as assistant detective Grace Makutsi, different but immediately believable. It's Grace who has the title's passion for fancy footwear-in spite of her being a secret feminist afraid of letting her boyfriend know about her politics. Smith does mix in small measures of danger and mystery, but the overall feeling is one of a pleasant dream, of gentle wonder that such people can exist in a conflicted world. And Lecat is the perfect choice to read the story. Simultaneous release with the Pantheon hardcover (reviewed online). (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Fans of Botswana's No. 1 lady detectives Precious Ramotswe and Grace Makutsi (In the Company of Cheerful Ladies) will be pleased to learn that the seventh novel in this series is just as entertaining as the previous six. Smith relates the ladies' latest adventures with his usual warmth, affection, and gentle humor. The ladies' problems this time range from the dramatic (a cobra in the office) to the romantic (a misunderstanding between Mma Makutsi and her fiance). The author digresses frequently on the charms of Botswana, as much a character as Mma Ramotswe herself. "If only more people knew, thought Mma Ramotswe. If only more people knew that there was more to Africa than all the problems they saw. They could love us too, as we love them." Highly recommended for all public libraries.-Leslie Patterson, Blanding P.L., Rehoboth, MA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A seventh bulging file of cases for Mma Precious Ramotswe and the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, most of them offering no hope of profit except to lucky readers. Where to begin? Poppy Maope is certain that the senior cook at her college is stealing food for her husband, but when she confronts the thief, she's threatened with losing her job. Neil Whitson, manager of the Mokolodi Game Preserve, senses widespread fear among workers who refuse to name its cause. Boitelo Mampodi, a qualified nurse, is worried because Dr. Eustace Lubega doesn't want her to take his patients' blood pressure. Mma Ramotswe's assistant, Mma Grace Makutsi, may have scared off her fiance, Mr. Phuti Radiphuti, by identifying herself as a feminist. And Mr. Polopetsi, the newest employee in the garage owned by Mma Ramotswe's husband, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni (In the Company of Cheerful Ladies, 2005), is exhausted by bicycling everywhere but has been denied an auto loan by his rich uncle. In Smith's quietly penetrating manner, each of these problems leads to still further problems. Perhaps Mma Ramotswe should throw in the towel and consult the advice columnist Aunty Emang, who seems to be seriously poaching on her turf. The denouement, which brings Mma Ramotswe face to face with evil, is the perfect climax to a tale as refreshing as a month in the country-the country of Botswana.
From the Publisher
Praise for In the Company of Cheerful Ladies:

• National Bestseller

“Beloved Botswana sleuth Precious Ramotswe is back – and better than ever – in this sixth entry in McCall Smith’s bestselling series. . . . By turns laugh-out-loud funny and quietly profound, these life-affirming mysteries are fine company, indeed.”
Booklist, starred review

“Like clove oil on a bad tooth, McCall Smith’s fiction acts on cynicism as an effective, old-fashioned balm.”
The Globe and Mail

“May be the most compelling of the lot. . . . It begins with an incident that crystallizes McCall Smith’s skill. Ultimately it is a matter of petty thievery, but his handling of it dramatizes the moral underpinnings of these books. . . . [Mma Ramotswe’s] strength – and the source of her enormous appeal – is her understanding of the human heart, and her willingness to confront its perfidies.”
New York Daily News

“These books offer a sunnily lit window into another world, along with a modicum of relief from certain aspects of modern Western culture. They never descend into mere escapism, though. A few hours spent with Precious Ramotswe and her friends is always time well spent.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“[The] sixth entry in McCall Smith’s consistently delightful series. . . Amid the hilarious scenarios and quiet revelations are luminous descriptions of Botswana, land of wide-open spaces and endless blue skies.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400075713
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/13/2007
Series:
No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series, #7
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
144,407
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.72(d)

Read an Excerpt

Blue Shoes and Happiness


By Alexander McCall Smith

Random House

Alexander McCall Smith
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0375433600


Chapter One

Aunty Emang, Solver of Problems

When you are just the right age, as Mma Ramotswe was, and when you have seen a bit of life, as Mma Ramotswe certainly had, then there are some things that you just know. And one of the things that was well known to Mma Ramotswe, only begetter of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (Botswana's only ladies' detective agency), was that there were two sorts of problem in this life. Firstly, there were those problems-and they were major ones-about which one could do very little, other than to hope, of course. These were the problems of the land, of fields that were too rocky, of soil that blew away in the wind, or of places where crops would just not thrive for some sickness that lurked in the very earth. But looming greater than anything else there was the problem of drought. It was a familiar feeling in Botswana, this waiting for rain, which often simply did not come, or came too late to save the crops. And then the land, scarred and exhausted, would dry and crack under the relentless sun, and it would seem that nothing short of a miracle would ever bring it to life. But that miracle would eventually arrive, as it always had, and the landscape would turn from brown to green within hours under the kiss of the rain. And there were other colours that would follow the green;yellows, blues, reds would appear in patches across the veld as if great cakes of dye had been crumbled and scattered by an unseen hand. These were the colours of the wild flowers that had been lurking there, throughout the dry season, waiting for the first drops of moisture to awaken them. So at least that sort of problem had its solution, although one often had to wait long, dry months for that solution to arrive.

The other sorts of problems were those which people made for themselves. These were very common, and Mma Ramotswe had seen many of them in the course of her work. Ever since she had set up this agency, armed only with a copy of Clovis Andersen's The Principles of Private Detection-and a great deal of common sense-scarcely a day had gone by without her encountering some problem which people had brought upon themselves. Unlike the first sort of problem-drought and the like-these were difficulties that could have been avoided. If people were only more careful, or behaved themselves as they should, then they would not find themselves faced with problems of this sort. But of course people never behaved themselves as they should. "We are all human beings," Mma Ramotswe had once observed to Mma Makutsi, "and human beings can't really help themselves. Have you noticed that, Mma? We can't really help ourselves from doing things that land us in all sorts of trouble."

Mma Makutsi pondered this for a few moments. In general, she thought that Mma Ramotswe was right about matters of this sort, but she felt that this particular proposition needed a little bit more thought. She knew that there were some people who were unable to make of their lives what they wanted them to be, but then there were many others who were quite capable of keeping themselves under control. In her own case, she thought that she was able to resist temptation quite effectively. She did not consider herself to be particularly strong, but at the same time she did not seem to be markedly weak. She did not drink, nor did she over-indulge in food, or chocolate or anything of that sort. No, Mma Ramotswe's observation was just a little bit too sweeping and she would have to disagree. But then the thought struck her: Could she resist a fine new pair of shoes, even if she knew that she had plenty of shoes already (which was not the case)?

"I think you're right, Mma," she said. "Everybody has a weakness, and most of us are not strong enough to resist it."

Mma Ramotswe looked at her assistant. She had an idea what Mma Makutsi's weakness might be, and indeed there might even be more than one.

"Take Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, for example," said Mma Ramotswe.

"All men are weak," said Mma Makutsi. "That is well known." She paused. Now that Mma Ramotswe and Mr J.L.B. Matekoni were married, it was possible that Mma Ramotswe had discovered new weaknesses in him. The mechanic was a quiet man, but it was often the mildest-looking people who did the most colourful things, in secret of course. What could Mr J.L.B. Matekoni get up to? It would be very interesting to hear.

"Cake," said Mma Ramotswe quickly. "That is Mr J.L.B. Matekoni's great weakness. He cannot help himself when it comes to cake. He can be manipulated very easily if he has a plate of cake in his hand."

Mma Makutsi laughed. "Mma Potokwane knows that, doesn't she?" she said. "I have seen her getting Mr J.L.B. Matekoni to do all sorts of things for her just by offering him pieces of that fruit cake of hers."

Mma Ramotswe rolled her eyes up towards the ceiling. Mma Potokwane, the matron of the orphan farm, was her friend, and when all was said and done she was a good woman, but she was quite ruthless when it came to getting things for the children in her care. She it was who had cajoled Mr J.L.B. Matekoni into fostering the two children who now lived in their house; that had been a good thing, of course, and the children were dearly loved, but Mr J.L.B. Matekoni had not thought the thing through and had failed even to consult Mma Ramotswe about the whole matter. And then there were the numerous occasions on which she had prevailed upon him to spend hours of his time fixing that unreliable old water pump at the orphan farm-a pump which dated back to the days of the Protectorate and which should have been retired and put into a museum long ago. And Mma Potokwane achieved all of this because she had a profound understanding of how men worked and what their weaknesses were; that was the secret of so many successful women-they knew about the weaknesses of men.

That conversation with Mma Makutsi had taken place some days before. Now Mma Ramotswe was sitting on the verandah of her house on Zebra Drive, late on a Saturday afternoon, reading the paper. She was the only person in the house at the time, which was unusual for a Saturday. The children were both out: Motholeli had gone to spend the weekend with a friend whose family lived out at Mogiditishane. This friend's mother had picked her up in her small truck and had stored the wheelchair in the back with some large balls of string that had aroused Mma Ramotswe's interest but which she had not felt it her place to ask about. What could anybody want with such a quantity of string? she wondered. Most people needed very little string, if any, in their lives, but this woman, who was a beautician, seemed to need a great deal. Did beauticians have a special use for string that the rest of us knew nothing about? Mma Ramotswe asked herself. People spoke about face-lifts; did string come into face-lifts?

Puso, the boy, who had caused them such concern over his unpredictable behaviour but who had recently become much more settled, had gone off with Mr J.L.B. Matekoni to see an important football match at the stadium. Mma Ramotswe did not consider it important in the least-she had no interest in football, and she could not see how it could possibly matter in the slightest who succeeded in kicking the ball into the goal the most times-but Mr J.L.B. Matekoni clearly thought differently. He was a close follower and supporter of the Zebras, and tried to get to the stadium whenever they were playing. Fortunately the Zebras were doing well at the moment, and this, thought Mma Ramotswe, was a good thing: it was quite possible, she felt, that Mr J.L.B. Matekoni's depression, from which he had made a good recovery, could recur if he, or the Zebras, were to suffer any serious set-back.

So now she was alone in the house, and it seemed very quiet to her. She had made a cup of bush tea and had drunk that thoughtfully, gazing out over the rim of her cup onto the garden to the front of the house. The sausage fruit tree, the moporoto, to which she had never paid much attention, had taken it upon itself to produce abundant fruit this year, and four heavy sausage-shaped pods had appeared at the end of a branch, bending that limb of the tree under their weight. She would have to do something about that, she thought. People knew that it was dangerous to sit under such trees, as the heavy fruit could crack open a skull if it chose to fall when a person was below. That had happened to a friend of her father's many years ago, and the blow that he had received had cracked his skull and damaged his brain, making it difficult for him to speak. She remembered him when she was a child, struggling to make himself understood, and her father had explained that he had sat under a sausage tree and had gone to sleep, and this was the result.

She made a mental note to warn the children and to get Mr J.L.B. Matekoni to knock the fruit down with a pole before anybody was hurt. And then she turned back to her cup of tea and to her perusal of the copy of The Daily News, which she had unfolded on her lap. She had read the first four pages of the paper, and had gone through the small advertisements with her usual care. There was much to be learned from the small advertisements, with their offers of irrigation pipes for farmers, used vans, jobs of various sorts, plots of land with house construction permission, and bargain furniture. Not only could one keep up to date with what things cost, but there was also a great deal of social detail to be garnered from this source. That day, for instance, there was a statement by a Mr Herbert Motimedi that he would not be responsible for any debts incurred by Mrs Boipelo Motimedi, which effectively informed the public that Herbert and Boipelo were no longer on close terms-which did not surprise Mma Ramotswe, as it happened, because she had always felt that that particular marriage was not a good idea, in view of the fact that Boipelo Motimedi had gone through three husbands before she found Herbert, and two of these previous husbands had been declared bankrupt. She smiled at that and skimmed over the remaining advertisements before turning the page and getting to the column that interested her more than anything else in the newspaper.

Some months earlier, the newspaper had announced to its readers that it would be starting a new feature. "If you have any problems," the paper said, "then you should write to our new exclusive columnist, Aunty Emang, who will give you advice on what to do. Not only is Aunty Emang a BA from the University of Botswana, but she also has the wisdom of one who has lived fifty-eight years and knows all about life." This advance notice brought in a flood of letters, and the paper had expanded the amount of space available for Aunty Emang's sound advice. Soon she had become so popular that she was viewed as something of a national institution and was even named in Parliament when an opposition member brought the house down with the suggestion that the policy proposed by some hapless minister would never have been approved of by Aunty Emang.

Mma Ramotswe had chuckled over that, as she now chuckled over the plight of a young student who had written a passionate love letter to a girl and had delivered it, by mistake, to her sister. "I am not sure what to do," he had written to Aunty Emang. "I think that the sister is very pleased with what I wrote to her as she is smiling at me all the time. Her sister, the girl I really like, does not know that I like her and maybe her own sister has told her about the letter which she has received from me. So she thinks now that I am in love with her sister, and does not know that I am in love with her. How can I get out of this difficult situation?" And Aunty Emang, with her typical robustness, had written: "Dear Anxious in Molepolole: The simple answer to your question is that you cannot get out of this. If you tell one of the girls that she has received a letter intended for her sister, then she will become very sad. Her sister (the one you really wanted to write to in the first place) will then think that you have been unkind to her sister and made her upset. She will not like you for this. The answer is that you must give up seeing both of these girls and you should spend your time working harder on your examinations. When you have a good job and are earning some money, then you can find another girl to fall in love with. But make sure that you address any letter to that girl very carefully."

There were two other letters. One was from a boy of fourteen who had been moved to write to Aunty Emang about being picked upon by his teacher. "I am a hard-working boy," he wrote. "I do all my schoolwork very carefully and neatly. I never shout in the class or push people about (like most other boys). When my teacher talks, I always pay attention and smile at him. I do not trouble the girls (like most other boys). I am a very good boy in every sense. Yet my teacher always blames me for anything that goes wrong and gives me low marks in my work. I am very unhappy. The more I try to please this teacher, the more he dislikes me. What am I doing wrong?"

Everything, thought Mma Ramotswe. That's what you are doing wrong: everything. But how could one explain to a fourteen-year-old boy that one should not try too hard; which was what he was doing and which irritated his teacher. It was better, she thought, to be a little bit bad in this life, and not too perfect. If you were too perfect, then you invited exactly this sort of reaction, even if teachers should be above that sort of thing. But what, she wondered, would Aunty Emang say?

"Dear Boy," wrote Aunty Emang. "Teachers do not like boys like you..."


Excerpted from Blue Shoes and Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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