In the Company of Cheerful Ladies (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series #6)

( 58 )

Overview

"Precious Ramotswe finds herself overly beset by problems. She is already busier than usual at the detective agency when added to her concerns are a strange intruder in her house on Zebra Drive and the baffling appearance of a pumpkin. And then there is Mma Makutsi, who decides to treat herself to dance lessons, only to be partnered with a man who seems to have two left feet. Nor are things running quite as smoothly as they usually do at Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors. Mma Ramotswe's husband, the estimable Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, is overburdened with
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In the Company of Cheerful Ladies (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series #6)

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Overview

"Precious Ramotswe finds herself overly beset by problems. She is already busier than usual at the detective agency when added to her concerns are a strange intruder in her house on Zebra Drive and the baffling appearance of a pumpkin. And then there is Mma Makutsi, who decides to treat herself to dance lessons, only to be partnered with a man who seems to have two left feet. Nor are things running quite as smoothly as they usually do at Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors. Mma Ramotswe's husband, the estimable Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, is overburdened with work even before one of his apprentices runs off with a wealthy woman. But what finally rattles Mma Ramotswe's normally unshakable composure is a visitor who forces her to confront a secret from her past." All this unfolds against the sunlit background of Mma Ramotswe's beloved homeland, Botswana - a land of empty spaces, echoing skies, and an endless supply of soothing bush tea.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The most heartening recent trend in detective fiction is the ever-gathering fame of Botswana private investigator Mma Ramotswe. Alexander McCall Smith's leisurely paced No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series stands in sharp contrast to the adrenaline overdrive of many conventional mystery thrillers, yet readers relish every new installment. The reasons for Precious Ramotswe's appeal seem mysterious, but they're actually not much different than the roots of Miss Marple's resilient fame: Whodunit fans want to share the company of companionable sleuths. In this installment of the internationally acclaimed series, Precious must cope with a strange Zebra Drive intruder, the appearance of a mysterious pumpkin, and the unexpected elopement of a motor-works employee.
From the Publisher
"A literary confection of . . . gossamer deliciousness. . . . There is no end to the pleasure that may be extracted from [this book]."
The New York Times Book Review

"Enchanting. . . . In the Company of Cheerful Ladies may be the most compelling of the lot." —Daily News

"Put on the teakettle, find your place in the sun and settle in for a genteel journey. . . . McCall Smith has brewed up a gem of a story as rich as . . . red bush tea."
Rocky Mountain News

"Beguiling, lyrical. . . . Cheerful Ladies is blessed with . . . McCall Smith's richly detailed portraits of life in Africa and his flair for storytelling with an engaging cast of fully realized characters." —Los Angeles Times

Janet Malcolm
The ''No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency'' series is a literary confection of such gossamer deliciousness that one feels it can only be good for one. Fortunately, since texts aren't cakes, there is no end to the pleasure that may be extracted from these six books.
— The New York Times Sunday Book Review
Publishers Weekly
In this sixth entry in McCall Smith's consistently delightful series, Botswana detective Precious Ramotswe, the traditionally built-and newly married-owner of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, is saddled with a surfeit of challenging cases and personal crises. There has been an intruder in her home (he managed to escape, but left a telltale pair of trousers in his wake). And the levelheaded sleuth is flustered by an encounter with a man from her past. Meanwhile, Mma Ramotswe's husband, master mechanic Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, is neck-deep in work after the resignation of one of his apprentices, who has become romantically entangled with a married woman (Mma Ramotswe and assistant detective Grace Makutsi slyly gather the scurrilous details). Scotsman McCall Smith, who was born in what is now Zimbabwe, renders colorful characters with names that trip off the tongue. Among the new arrivals: Mma Makutsi's new suitor and dance partner, Phuti Radiphuti, a stuttering furniture salesman with two left feet; and Mr. Polopetsi, a wrongfully imprisoned pharmacist Mma Ramotswe deems worthy of a second chance. As always, when troubles are brewing, nothing puts things in perspective like time spent on the verandah with a cup of bush tea. Amid the hilarious scenarios and quiet revelations are luminous descriptions of Botswana, land of wide-open spaces and endless blue skies. The prolific McCall Smith dispenses tales from the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency at a rate of one per year (he's also author of a second detective series featuring Scottish-American moral philosopher Isabel Dalhousie). That's good news for loyal fans, who eagerly await new adventures with Precious Ramotswe. Agent, Robin Straus. (Apr. 19) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The sixth entry in Smith's always delightful "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series sees the return of newly married Precious Ramotswe, with husband Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, his apprentices, and assistant detective Grace Makutsi in tow. The group embarks on another set of clever and amusing Botswana adventures that kick off with an intruder in Mma Ramotswe's home and proceeds to a succession of other dilemmas: Mr. Matekoni's apprentice Charliekeeps company with a mysterious older woman and quits his position, Mma Ramotswe and her assistant encounters a good-hearted man with a dark past, and Mma Makutsi reluctantly begins dance lessons with a stuttering stranger. Smith remains true to form in this clever and wonderfully written installment; the characters are deliciously human, and the multiple plots mesh together seamlessly. An essential read for series fans and mystery buffs alike, this is highly recommended for all public libraries. Smith lives in Scotland. [See Prepub Mystery, LJ 12/04.]-Nicole A. Cooke, Montclair State Univ. Lib., Upper Montclair, NJ Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-This sixth entry in the series does not disappoint. But this time, Mma Ramotswe, proprietor of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency in Gaborone, Botswana, and now married to Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni, owner of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, is filled with worry over personal problems. At the same time, her assistant, Mma Makutsi, is preoccupied with finding a husband, and it appears that Charlie, the apprentice at the auto shop, has run off with an older woman. Large cups of bush tea remain the main source of relief for thirst and for solving mysteries. Among the new characters is Mr. Polopetsi, hired to work at Tlokweng Road after Mma Ramotswe knocks him off his bicycle with her tiny white van. Although the agency takes on some criminal cases, most of the plot revolves around the everyday dilemmas of life. For Mma Ramotswe, the right course of action is always the moral one, usually reached with much reflection and humor. Good reading, sound reasoning, cheerful and faithful friends, and descriptions of the much-loved landscape of Botswana make this an appealing novel.-Sheila Janega, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The finest hour yet for Botswana's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, which is tracking a defalcating Zambian financier even though it "preferred to deal with more domestic matters." Her marriage to Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, proprietor of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, agrees with Mma Precious Ramotswe, but if anything it's increased her caseload. The trousers left behind by a housebreaker who hid under her bed have been replaced by a ripe pumpkin. Charlie, the older apprentice at Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, has gone off to live with a rich woman who drives a Mercedes-Benz. The tenants in Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni's rental property have set up an illegal bar. Worst of all, Mma Ramotwse's first husband, abusive jazzman Note Mokoti, has reappeared with some most unwelcome news. Though all these problems are miles from the mysteries typical of the genre, all of them except for one rather big unresolved question yield to the patient wiles of Mma Ramotswe and her assistant, Grace Makutsi, the pride of Botswana Secretarial College, whose methods emphasize solving problems over fixing guilt. Along the way, Mma Makutsi will find love in an unexpected place; Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni will find a replacement for Jimmy; and the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency will almost find that Zambian financier. Smith (see also p. 314) maintains the most civilized standards in the annals of detective fiction. But now, for the first time, he plots as if he actually means it.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400075706
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/14/2006
  • Series: No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series , #6
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 181,669
  • Product dimensions: 5.12 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Meet the Author

Alexander McCall Smith
Alexander McCall Smith
Law professor Alexander McCall Smith had already written more than 50 books before inventing the heroine for his No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series: Precious Ramotswe, the only female P.I. in Botswana. The books are as unconventional as their good-humored heroine, who relies on common sense -- and a few tidbits gleaned from Agatha Christie -- to solve her cases.

Biography

Alexander McCall Smith was born in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) and went to school in Bulawayo, near the Botswana border. Although he moved to Scotland to attend college and eventually settled in Edinburgh, he always felt drawn to southern Africa and taught law for a while at the University of Botswana. He has written a book on the criminal law of Botswana, and among his successful children's books is a collection of African folk tales, Children of Wax.

Eventually, Smith had an urge to write a novel about a woman who would embody the qualities he admired in the people of Botswana, and the result, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, was a surprise hit, receiving two special Booker citations and a place on the Times Literary Supplement's International Books of the Year and the Millennium list. "The author's prose has the merits of simplicity, euphony and precision," Anthony Daniels wrote in the Sunday Telegraph. "His descriptions leave one as if standing in the Botswanan landscape. This is art that conceals art. I haven't read anything with such unalloyed pleasure for a long time."

Despite the book's success in the U.K., American publishers were slow to take an interest, and by the time The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency was picked up by Pantheon Books, Smith had already written two sequels. The books went from underground hits to national phenomena in the United States, spawning fan clubs and inspiring celebratory reviews. Smith is also the author of a detective series featuring the insatiably curious philosopher Isabel Dalhousie and the 44 Scotland Street novels, which present a witty portrait of Edinburgh society

In an interview on the publisher's web site, Smith says he thinks the country of Botswana "particularly chimes with many of the values which Americans feel very strongly about -- respect for the rule of law and for individual freedom. I hope that readers will also see in these portrayals of Botswana some of the great traditional virtues in Africa -- in particular, courtesy and a striking natural dignity."

Good To Know

As a professor at Edinburgh Law School, Smith specializes in criminal law and medical law, and has written about the legal and ethical aspects of euthanasia, medical research, and medical practice.

When he isn't writing books or teaching, Smith finds time to play the bassoon in the candidly named amateur ensemble he co-founded, The Really Terrible Orchestra.

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Reading Group Guide

1. In the opening scene, Mma Ramotswe watches as a driver sideswipes a parked car and drives away without taking responsibility and as a woman at a market steals a bracelet from a merchant when his back is turned. Mma Ramotswe jumps up from the café and tries to alert the merchant to the robbery, but her waitress accuses her of trying to run out on the bill and attempts to elicit a bribe. How do such behaviors mark the difference, for Mma Ramotswe, between the old Botswana and the new? Why does she wish to maintain ties to the old ways of thinking?

2. Detective stories usually have complex plots and eventually solve a mystery. McCall Smith’s books, however, are not so much based on plot as on human interaction and on the fact that “the unexplained was unexplained not because there was anything beyond explanation, but simply because the ordinary, day-to-day explanation had not made itself apparent. Once one began to enquire, so-called mysteries rapidly tended to become something more prosaic” [p. 17]. How does Mma Ramotswe’s approach to the detective’s profession differ from that found in other detective novels you have read? Why is the mystery of the intruder left unresolved at the end of the story?

3. At the church service Mma Ramotswe reflects, “It was a time of sickness, and charity was sorely tested. There were mothers here, mothers who would leave children behind them if they were called” [p. 27]. The minister refers to “this cruel illness that stalks Africa” [p. 31]. While the book doesn’t refer directly to HIV/AIDS, how does this deadly epidemic inflect McCall Smith’s presentation of modern Botswana, as well as his presentation of Mma Ramotswe’s state of mind?

4. Is it surprising that Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi interfere in Charlie’s affair with the woman in the Mercedes? How do they justify this intervention?

5. The state of people’s clothes and hands, their manner of speaking, and countless other details are indicators from which we can make guesses about them. How does Mma Ramotswe conclude that Mr Polopetsi, regardless of having been in prison, is a good man [p. 52]? Why was she not, in the past, similarly observant about the character of Note Mokoti?

6. Why do Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi have nothing to say when Mr Polopetsi finishes the story of how he went to jail?

7. What does Mma Ramotswe think of the irresponsible behavior of men like Charlie and its effects on their lives and the lives of people around them? Why does she take a dim view of men on the whole, with the exception of men like Mr J. L. B. Matekoni and Mr Polopetsi?

8. Like Jane Austen, McCall Smith is interested in manners. Think, for example, about how and why Grace eventually gained the courage to buy her own tea-pot so she could brew her own tea, how Mma Ramotswe apologized to Grace for assuming that she liked bush tea [p. 41], and how Charlie drained oil into that tea-pot [pp. 74–75]. Why are a person’s manners such a precise indicator of his or her character?

9. How does Grace overcome her initial impression of Phuti Radiphuti, and what qualities does she come to see in him? As a reader, what is your impression of Rra Radiphuti?

10. Consider some of the beloved objects in the novel, like Mma Ramotswe’s tiny white van or Mma Makutsi’s lace handkerchief. What is their significance?

11. In the marriage of Mr J. L. B. Matekoni and Mma Ramotswe, much is left unsaid. For instance, when Note Mokoti comes to the garage, Rra Matekoni never asks Precious who this man is, and she doesn’t feel obligated to tell him. Is this degree of privacy unusual in a marriage? Are the two characters very different from each other? What is the foundation of their relationship?

12. What is the effect of reading that Mma Ramotswe, who is thought of as indomitable by the other characters, succumbs to fear and weakness in the presence of Note Mokoti? What is the source of his power, and what does this reveal about her character, past and present? How does she manage to subdue her fear?

13. If you have read other books in The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, do the stories feel like one continuous novel, or do the individual volumes stand as discrete novels independent of the others? Is it important, for understanding the characters and their situations, to read the books in order, or is the order irrelevant?

14. Book reviewers and fans all agree that the novels in The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series give a great deal of reading pleasure. Does this pleasure mask their moral seriousness, or is their moral seriousness part of what makes them pleasurable?

15. A typographic design, repeating the word Africa, follows the novel’s final sentence. How does this affect your reading of the ending, and what emotions does it express?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 58 )
Rating Distribution

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(31)

4 Star

(18)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 59 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2012

    Gift to the WORLD

    My Family knows and anyone else reading this will know.. On my wish list is this entire series It's a must Read. HBO really needed to continue this project.. but in the meantime its just as fun to read! Enjoy.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 23, 2009

    Excellent audiobook!!!

    The books are charming, but once you hear Lisette Lecat perform on these audiobooks, you will be fully hooked and the world of Precious Ramotswe and Botswana will be forever in your heart. I've loved the books, but rather than rereading them, I listen to these CDs over and over. I recommend that you try the whole series.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2009

    Characters Who Connect

    After reading this and the previous 5 in the series this was one of my very favorites. By Book 6 I had a greater appreciation of the main characters. They were always enjoyable reading but being with them from the time they first enter the story and following them through all sorts of situations added to my understanding of them and their actions or reactions. The intriguing mysteries and challenges they encounter are enhanced by understanding who they are. Although many interesting characters appear there are only a few main characters and to have been in their company for 6 books has been a pleasure, a pleasure that I look forward to continuing in Book 7 and beyond.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2008

    Cheerful Ladie I Am

    I love this series. It hold your interest and you cannot wait for the next book to come out. I appreciate that the isn't the overt sexual content that many other authors' books always seem to have. It's safe to leave out around your children. That's a major plus for me, especially as a Christian mother. :'

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2006

    A beautiful story

    This beautifully written story with exquisite characters is not only humorous, but also full of wisdom in it. I particularly loved the style of writing and the amazing feel of Africa that the work generates in the reader. That feeling made me not to put it down from the moment that I began until the very end. What is more, I became drawn to Botswana after reading this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2006

    Precious is flawed like the rest of us!

    I breathe a sigh of contentment when I finish a book in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective series, having spent many pleasurable hours with Mma Ramotswe and her friends in Botswana and wishing my life were as simple and rewarding. In The Company of Cheerful Ladies elicited this same response, but I have grown even fonder of Precious now that I realize she is as flawed as the rest of us and has made a few wrong turns. The sly humor and distinctive writing style envelopes the reader, as does the charming attention to the minute details of ordinary life (shoes and bush tea and a good pumpkin). I even like the fact that one of the mysteries is not solved in this novel: all problems do not have solutions and life doesn't always have a tidy ending. Oh, how I wish Precious Ramotswe lived next door to me.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2005

    Another wonderful, warm installment of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series!

    I think that other than the first book, this one is my favorite in the series. Mma Ramotswe's cleverness is not quite at the forefront of this book, (although she is still as warm and wise as ever.) This allows others, such as Mma Makutsi, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, (and even new characters) to shine; (and shine, they do!) At one point this book made me gasp with surprise. Many other passages brought me a smile (as the books in this series always do!). A few times I even laughed out loud. If you're in need of something to read which will guarantee the warm fuzzies, I highly recommend The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. I also recommend that if this interests you, begin with the first in the series (the same title as the series, itself.) These are my favorite books in the world, hands down! I just adore Mma Ramotswe, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, their friends, and their world.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2006

    A Return to Form

    My book club read The Full Cupboard of Life for our meeting last month, and (as I have long been a fan of this series), I felt the need to read the next book in the series! I like to wait for the softcover version, so I was thrilled to get it for the nicer softcover price. After the last book, which I enjoyed greatly but found to sometimes stretch the boundaries of believability, I felt that McCall Smith returned to his usual good form in this book. The introduction of two major new characters (a new employee for the garage/detective agency, and a new beau for the somewhat challenge Mma Makutsi, or as everyone else seems to call her, Mma 97%) breathes fresh life into the series. Both are very lovely and likable characters who are perfect extensions to the family that Mma Ramotswe likes to surround herself with. The detective stories seem to be taking an increasing back seat, which isn't really a problem as they've never been the focus of the series anyway. The mysteries to be solved are usually resolved by someone simply flapping their gums and telling a secret - though, strangely, the mystery that opens the book is never solved (perhaps it will be revisited in the sequel). One thing that I really enjoyed was the author's increasing exploration of the occasionally moderately contentious relationship between Mma Ramotswe & Mma Makutsi...as Makutsi has come into her own more and more, she has begun to chafe a bit under Mma Ramotswe's direction, and the two occasionally get on each other's nerves. This is a lovely breath of realism in a series noted for its idealism. All in all, recommended, though newbies should probably start with the earier books in the series.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2006

    good read

    I have read all the books in this series, and I have loved all of them, including this one. However, I was a little disappointed that he didnt develop the mystery cases a little more. But, all in all, a good read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2005

    Another good job!

    I spent a whole day reading this book -- I have a lexicon of Setswana/Botswana terms typed up so I didn't have to spend time with the dictionary on this one -- & enjoyed it thoroughly.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2005

    No6 is OK by me

    Lovely writing and inspired characters. An old cliche, but I could not put this down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2005

    Very Good but not Great

    I have read all the books in these series and loved them all. This particular book however was a little different from the rest in that the main character, Mma Ramotswe, was not in her take charge problem solving mode. I missed her laughter and her humor. I expect her to be in charge, wise, and clever. I also enjoyed sizing up the people coming to the agency to ask for help. It was interesting to see how their problems were solved in different chapters in the book. In this particular book some things came together in the end. All the previous books in the series I rate a five star, this one I rate a four star.

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    Posted April 23, 2011

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    Posted November 14, 2010

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    Posted June 16, 2011

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    Posted October 25, 2008

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    Posted May 9, 2012

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