The eighth installment of Alexander McCall Smith's beloved No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency saga is marked with existential upheaval: Automobile repair shop owner Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni -- husband of Botswana's leading, and only, female private detective, Precious Ramotswe -- unexpectedly approaches his wife with the ill-conceived idea of becoming a part-time investigator; one of Matekoni's bumbling apprentices quits; and Ramotswe's longtime assistant, Grace Makutsi, suddenly resigns.
Struggling to come to grips with Makutsi's abrupt resignation, "traditionally built" detective Ramotswe has her hands full with a trio of cases involving unexplained deaths at a nearby hospital, an allegedly cheating husband, and thievery at a print shop. But the exceedingly wise owner of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency confronts all these situations with compassion, discretion, and her trademark wry Botswanan sense of humor.
Part of the widespread appeal of this series lies in the tidbits of quiet wisdom sprinkled throughout each delightfully meandering narrative. The Good Husband of Zebra Drive, for example, explores the importance of not only trust and mercy but also tolerance. Ramotswe's musings are as insightful as they are understated: "It's interesting how we can look at things and think we see something, when it really isn't there at all." Entertaining and enlightening, Smith's beloved No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency saga is simply precious. Paul Goat Allen