Morality for Beautiful Girls (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series #3)

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The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, published in 1998, introduced the world to the one and only Precious Ramotswe, the engaging and sassy owner of Botswana's only detective agency. Tears of the Giraffe took us further into this world and now, continuing the adventures of Mma. Ramotswe, Morality for Beautiful Girls finds her expanding her business to take in the world of car repair and a beauty pageant.
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Morality for Beautiful Girls (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series #3)

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Overview

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, published in 1998, introduced the world to the one and only Precious Ramotswe, the engaging and sassy owner of Botswana's only detective agency. Tears of the Giraffe took us further into this world and now, continuing the adventures of Mma. Ramotswe, Morality for Beautiful Girls finds her expanding her business to take in the world of car repair and a beauty pageant.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In Morality for Beautiful Girls, Ramotswe tangles with a feral child, the finalists in a beauty pageant and a suspicious cook. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
“The Miss Marple of Botswana.” –The New York Times Book Review

“I was enchanted by the character of Precious Ramotswe and the sly humor of Alexander McCall Smith’s writing, his deft evocation of a culture.” –Anthony Minghella

“Thoroughly engaging and entertaining.” –Los Angeles Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781402543685
  • Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC
  • Publication date: 4/28/2003
  • Series: No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series , #3
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Product dimensions: 6.42 (w) x 5.58 (h) x 1.09 (d)

Meet the Author

Alexander McCall Smith
Alexander McCall Smith is a professor of medical law at Edinburgh University. He was born in what is now known as Zimbabwe and taught law at the University of Botswana. He is the author of over fifty books on a wide range of subjects, including specialist titles such as Forensic Aspects of Sleep and The Criminal Law of Botswana, children's books such as The Perfect Hamburger, and a collection of stories called Portuguese Irregular Verbs.

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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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


The World as Seen by Another Person


Mma Ramotswe, the daughter of the late Obed Ramotswe Mochudi, near Gaborone, Botswana, Africa, was the announced fiancée of Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, son of the late Pumphamilitse Matekoni, of Tlokweng, peasant farmer and latterly chief caretaker of the Railway Head Office. It was a fine match, everybody thought; she, the founder and owner of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Botswana's only detective agency for the concerns of both ladies and others; he, the proprietor of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, and by general repute one of the finest mechanics in Botswana. It was always a good thing, people said, to have independent interests in a marriage. Traditional marriages, in which the man made all the decisions and controlled most of the household assets, were all very well for women who wanted to spend their time cooking and looking after children, but times had changed, and for educated women who wanted to make something of their lives, it was undoubtedly better for both spouses to have something to do.

    There were many examples of such marriages. There was that of Mma Maketetse, for example, who had set up a small factory specialising in the making of khaki shorts for schoolboys. She had started with a cramped and ill-ventilated sewing room at the back of her house, but by employing her cousins to cut and sew for her she had built up one of Botswana's best businesses, exporting khaki shorts to Namibia in the face of stiff competition from large clothing factories in the Cape. She had married Mr Cedric Maketetse, who ran two bottlestores in Gaborone, the capital, and had recently opened a third in Francistown. There had been a faintly embarrassing article about them in the local paper, with the catchy headline: Shorts manufacturing lady buttons it up with drink merchant. They were both members of the Chamber of Commerce, and it was clear to all that Mr Maketetse was immensely proud of his wife's business success.

    Of course, a woman with a successful business had to be careful that a man who came courting her was not merely looking for a way of spending the rest of his days in comfort. There had been plenty of cases of that happening, and Mma Ramotswe had noticed that the consequences of such unions were almost inevitably dire. The man would either drink or gamble away the profits of his wife's enterprise, or he would try to run the business and destroy it in the process. Men were good at business, thought Mma Ramotswe, but women were just as good. Women were thriftier by nature; they had to be, trying to run households on a tight budget and feed the ever-open mouths of children. Children ate so much, it seemed, and one could never cook enough pumpkin or porridge to fill their hungry bellies. And as for men, they never seemed happier than when eating large quantities of expensive meat. It was all rather discouraging.

    "That will be a good marriage," people said, when they heard of her engagement to Mr J.L.B. Matekoni. "He is a reliable man, and she is a very good woman. They will be very happy running their businesses and drinking tea together."

    Mma Ramotswe was aware of this popular verdict on her engagement and shared the sentiment. After her disastrous marriage to Note Mokoti, the jazz trumpeter and incorrigible ladies' man, she had decided that she would never remarry, in spite of frequent offers. Indeed, she had initially turned down Mr J.L.B. Matekoni when he had first proposed, only to accept him some six months later. She had realised that the best test of a prospective husband involves no more than the asking of a very simple question, which every woman -- or at least every woman who has had a good father -- can pose and to which she will know the answer in her bones. She had asked herself this question in respect of Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, and the answer had been unambiguous.

    "And what would my late Daddy have thought of him?" she said to herself. She posed the question after she had accepted Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, as one might ask oneself whether one had taken the right turning at a road junction. She remembered where she had been when she asked it. She was taking an evening walk near the dam, along one of those paths that led this way and that through the thorn bushes. She had suddenly stopped, and looked up at the sky, into that faint, washed out blue that would suddenly, at the approach of sunset, become streaked with copper-red. It was a quiet time of the day, and she was utterly alone. And so she spoke the question out loud, as if there were somebody there to hear it.

    She looked up at the sky, half-expecting the answer to be there. But of course it was not, and she knew it anyway, without the need to look. There was no doubt in her mind that Obed Ramotswe, who had seen every sort of man during the time he had worked in those distant mines, and who knew the foibles of all of them, would have approved of Mr J.L.B. Matekoni. And if that were the case, then she should have no fears about her future husband. He would be kind to her.


Now, sitting in the office of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency with her assistant, Mma Makutsi, the most distinguished graduate of her year at the Botswana Secretarial College, she reflected on the decisions which her impending marriage to Mr J.L.B. Matekoni would oblige her to take. The most immediate issue, of course, had been where they might live. That had been decided rather quickly; Mr J.L.B. Matekoni's house near the old Botswana Defence Club, attractive though it undoubtedly was, with its old colonial verandah and its shiny tin roof, was not as suitable as her own house in Zebra Drive. His garden was sparse; little more than a swept yard, in fact; whereas she had a good collection of paw-paw trees, some very shady acacias, and a well-established melon patch. Moreover, when it came to the interiors, there was little to recommend Mr J.L.K. Matekoni's spartan corridors and unlived-in rooms, especially when compared with the layout of her own house. It would be a great wrench, she felt, to abandon her livingroom, with its comfortable rug on the red-polished concrete floor, her mantelpiece with her commemorative plate of Sir Sereste Khama, Paramount Chief, Statesman, and first President of Botswana, and, in the corner, her treadle sewing machine that still worked so well, even in a power cut when more modern sewing machines would fall silent.

    She had not had to say very much about it. In fact, the decision in favour of Zebra Drive did not even have to be spelled out. After Mr J.L.B. Matekoni had been persuaded by Mma Potokwani, the matron at the orphan farm, to act as foster father to an orphaned boy and his crippled sister, the children had moved into her house and immediately settled in. After that, it was accepted that the whole family would, in due course, live in Zebra Drive. For the time being, Mr J.L.B. Matekoni would continue to live in his own house, but would take his evening meal at Zebra Drive.

    That was the easy part of the arrangement. Now there remained the issue of the business. As Mma Ramotswe sat at her desk, watching Mma Makutsi shuffling papers in the filing cabinet of their small office, her thoughts were taken up with the difficult task that lay ahead of her. It had not been an easy decision to make, but she had now made it and she would have to steel herself and put it into effect. That was what business was all about.

    One of the most elementary rules of running a business was that facilities should not be needlessly duplicated. After she and Mr J.L.B. Matekoni married, they would have two businesses with two offices. They were very different concerns, of course, but Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors had a large amount of office space and it would make a great deal of sense for Mma Ramotswe to run her agency from there. She had made a close inspection of Mr J.L.B. Matekoni's building and had even obtained advice from a local builder.

    "There will be no difficulty," he had said after inspecting the garage and its office. "I can put in a new door on that side over there. Then the clients for your business can come in and not have anything to do with all those greasy goings-on in the workshop."

    Combining the two offices would enable Mma Ramotswe to let out her own office and the income derived from that would make all the difference. At present, the uncomfortable truth about the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency was that it was simply not making enough money. It was not that there were no clients -- there had been a ready supply of those -- it was just that detective work was immensely time-consuming and people were simply unable to pay for her services if she charged at a realistic hourly rate. A couple of hundred pula for the resolution of uncertainty or for the finding of a missing person was affordable, and usually well worth it, but several thousand pula for the same job was another matter altogether. Doubt could be preferable to sure knowledge if the difference between the two was a large sum of money.

    The business might have broken even if it were not for the wages which Mma Ramotswe had to pay Mma Makutsi. She had originally employed her as a secretary, on the grounds that every business which wished to be taken seriously had to have a secretary, but had soon realised the talents that lay behind those large spectacles. Mma Makutsi had been promoted to assistant detective, a position that gave her the status she so craved. But Mma Ramotswe had felt obliged to raise her pay at the same time, thus plunging the agency current account further into the red.

    She had discussed the matter with Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, who had agreed with her that she had very little choice.

    "If you continue like this," he said gravely, "you'll end up bankrupt. I've seen that happen to businesses. They appoint somebody called a judicial manager. He is like a vulture, circling, circling. It is a very bad thing to happen to a business."

    Mma Ramotswe clicked her tongue. "I do not want that," she said. "It would be a very sad end to the business."

    They had looked at one another glumly. Then Mr J.L.B. Matekoni spoke. "You'll have to sack her," he said. "I've had to sack mechanics in the past. It is not easy, but that is what business is about."

    "She was so happy when I promoted her," said Mma Ramotswe quietly. "I can't suddenly tell her that she is no longer a detective. She has no people here in Gaborone. Her people are up in Bobonong. They are very poor, I think."

    Mr J.L.B. Matekoni shook his head. "There are many poor people," he said. "Many of these people are suffering badly. But you cannot keep a business going on air. That is well-known. You have to add what you get in and then take away what you spend. The difference is your profit. In your case, there is a minus sign in front of that figure. You cannot ..."

    "I cannot," broke in Mma Ramotswe. "I cannot sack her now. I am like her mother. She wants so much to be a detective and she is hard-working."

    Mr J.L.B. Matekoni looked down at his feet. He suspected that Mma Ramotswe was expecting him to propose something, but he was not quite sure what it was. Did she expect him to give her money? Did she want him to meet the bills of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, even though she had made it so clear that she expected him to keep to his garage business while she attended to her clients and their unsettling problems?

    "I do not want you to pay," said Mma Ramotswe, looking at him with a firmness that made him both fear and admire her.

    "Of course not," he said hurriedly. "I was not thinking that at all."

    "On the other hand," went on Mma Ramotswe, "you do need a secretary at the garage. Your bills are always in a mess, are they not? You never keep a note of what you pay those useless apprentices of yours. I should imagine that you make loans to them, too. Do you keep a record?"

    Mr J.L.B. Matekoni looked shifty. How had she found out that the apprentices each owed him over six hundred pula and had shown no signs of being able to repay it?

    "Do you want her to come and work for me?" he asked, surprised at the suggestion. "What about her detective position?"

    Mma Ramotswe did not answer for a moment. She had not worked anything out, but a plan was now beginning to take shape. If they moved her office to the garage, then Mma Makutsi could keep her job as assistant detective while at the same time she could do the secretarial work that the garage needed. Mr J.L.B. Matekoni could pay her a wage for that, which would mean that the agency's accounts would be relieved of a large part of that burden. This, coupled with the rent which she would receive for the existing offices, would make the financial position look considerably healthier.

     She explained her proposal to Mr J.L.B. Matekoni. Although he had always expressed doubts as to Mma Makutsi's usefulness, he could see the attractions of Mma Ramotswe's scheme, not the least of which was that it would keep her happy. And that, he knew, was what he wanted above all else.


Mma Ramotswe cleared her throat.

    "Mma Makutsi," she began. "I have been thinking about the future."

    Mma Makutsi, who had finished her rearranging of the filing cabinet, had made them both a cup of bush tea and was settling down to the half-hour break that she usually took at eleven in the morning. She had started to read a magazine -- an old copy of the National Geographic -- which her cousin, a teacher, had lent her.

    "The future? Yes, that is always interesting. But not as interesting as the past, I think. There is a very good article in this magazine, Mma Ramotswe," she said. "I will lend it to you after I have finished reading it. It is all about our ancestors up in East Africa. There is a Dr Leakey there. He is a very famous doctor of bones."

    "Doctor of bones?" Mma Ramotswe was puzzled. Mma Makutsi expressed herself very well -- both in English and Setswana -- but occasionally she used rather unusual expressions. What was a doctor of bones? It sounded rather like a witchdoctor, but surely one could not describe Dr Leakey as a witchdoctor?

    "Yes," said Mma Makutsi. "He knows all about very old bones. He digs them up and tells us about our past. Here, look at this one."

     She held up a picture, printed across two pages. Mma Ramotswe squinted to make it out. Her eyes were not what they once were, she had noticed, and she feared that sooner or later she would end up like Mma Makutsi, with her extraordinary, large glasses.

    "Is that Dr Leakey?"

    Mma Makutsi nodded. "Yes, Mma," she said, "that is him. He is holding a skull which belonged to a very early person. This person lived a long time ago and is very late."

    Mma Ramotswe found herself being drawn in. "And this very late person," she said. "Who was he?"

    "The magazine says that he was a person when there were very few people about," explained Mma Makutsi. "We all lived in East Africa then."

    "Everybody?"

    "Yes. Everybody. My people. Your people. All people. We all come from the same small group of ancestors. Dr Leakey has proved that."

    Mma Ramotswe was thoughtful. "So we are all brothers and sisters, in a sense?"

    "We are," said Mma Makutsi. "We are all the same people. Eskimos, Russians, Nigerians. They are the same as us. Same blood. Same DNA."

    "DNA?" asked Mma Ramotswe. "What is that?"

    "It is something which God used to make people," explained Mma Makutsi. "We are all made up of DNA and water."

    Mma Ramotswe considered the implications of these revelations for a moment. She had no views on Eskimos and Russians, but Nigerians were a different matter. But Mma Makutsi was right, she reflected: if universal brotherhood -- and sisterhood -- meant anything, it would have to embrace the Nigerians as well.

    "If people knew this," she said, "if they knew that we were all from the same family, they be kinder to one another, do you think?"

    Mma Makutsi put down the magazine. "I'm sure they would," she said. "If they knew that, then they would find it very difficult to do unkind things to others. They might even want to help them a bit more."

    Mma Ramotswe was silent. Mma Makutsi had made it difficult to go on, but she and Mr J.L.B. Matekoni had taken the decision and she had no alternative but to break the bad news.

    "That is all very interesting," she said, trying to sound firm. "I must read more about Dr Leakey when I have more time. At the moment I am having to spend all my time on working out how to keep this business going. The accounts are not good, you know. Our accounts are not like those accounts you see published in the newspapers -- you know the ones, where they have two columns, income and expenditure, and the first is always bigger than the second. With this business it is the other way round."

    She paused, watching the effect of her words on Mma Makutsi. It was difficult to tell what she was thinking, with those glasses.

    "So I am going to have to do something," she went on. "If I do nothing, then we shall be put under judicial management or the bank manager will come and take the office from us. That is what happens to businesses that do not make a profit. It is very bad."

    Mma Makutsi was staring at her desk. Then she looked up at Mma Ramotswe and for a moment the branches of the thorn tree outside the window were reflected in her glasses. Mma Ramotswe found this disconcerting; it was as if one were looking at the world as seen by another person. As she thought this, Mma Makutsi moved her head, and Mma Ramotswe saw, for a moment, the reflection of her own red dress.

    "I am doing my best," said Mma Makutsi quietly. "I hope that you will give me a chance. I am very happy being an assistant detective here. I do not want to be just a secretary for the rest of my life."

    She stopped and looked at Mma Ramotswe. What was it like, thought Mma Ramotswe, to be Mma Makutsi, graduate of the Botswana Secretarial College with ninety seven per cent in the final examination, but with nobody, except for some people far away up in Bobonong? She knew that Mma Makutsi sent them money, because she had seen her once in the Post Office, buying a postal order for one hundred pula. She imagined that they had been told about the promotion and were proud of the fact that their niece, or whatever she was to them, was doing so well in Gaborone. Whereas the truth was that the niece was being kept as an act of charity and it was really Mma Ramotswe supporting those people up in Bobonong.

    Her gaze shifted to Mma Makutsi's desk, and to the still-exposed picture of Dr Leakey holding the skull. Dr Leakey was looking out of the photograph, directly at her. Well Mma Ramotswe? he seemed to be saying. What about this assistant of yours?

    She cleared her throat. "You must not worry," she said. "You will still be assistant detective. But we will need you to do some other duties as well when we move over to Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors. Mr J.L.B. Matekoni needs help with his paperwork. Half of you will be a secretary, but half of you will be an assistant detective." She paused, and then added hurriedly, "But you can call yourself assistant detective. That will be your official title."

    For the rest of the day, Mma Makutsi was quieter than usual. She made Mma Ramotswe her afternoon tea in silence, handing the mug over to her without saying anything, but at the end of the day she seemed to have accepted her fate.

    "I suppose that Mr J.L.B. Matekoni's office is a mess," she said. "I cannot see him doing his paperwork properly. Men do not like that sort of thing."

    Mma Ramotswe was relieved by the change of tone. "It is a real mess," she said. "You will be doing him a very good service if you sort it out."

    "We were taught how to do that at college," said Mma Makutsi. "They sent us one day to an office that was in a very bad way, and we had to sort it out. There were four of us -- myself and three pretty girls. The pretty girls spent all their time talking to the men in the office while I did the work."

    "Ah!" said Mma Ramotswe. "I can imagine that."

    "I worked until eight o'clock at night," went on Mma Makutsi. "The other girls all went off with the men to a bar at five o'clock and left me there. The next morning, the Principal of the College said that we had all done a very good job and that we were all going to get a top mark for the assignment. The other girls were very pleased. They said that although I had done most of the tidying they had had the more difficult part of the job, which was keeping the men from getting in the way. They really thought that."

    Mma Ramotswe shook her head. "They are useless girls, those girls," she said. "There are too many people like that in Botswana these days. But at least you know that you have succeeded. You are an assistant detective and what are they? Nothing, I should think."

    Mma Makutsi took off her large spectacles and polished the lenses carefully with the corner of a handkerchief.

    "Two of them are married to very rich men," she said. "They have big houses over near the Sun Hotel. I have seen them walking about in their expensive sunglasses. The third went off to South Africa and became a model. I have seen her picture in a magazine. She has got a husband who is a photographer for that magazine. He has plenty of money too and she is very happy. They call him Polaroid Khumalo. He is very handsome and well-known."

    She replaced her glasses and looked at Mma Ramotswe.

    "There will be a husband for you some day," said Mma Ramotswe. "And that man will be a very fortunate man."

    Mma Makutsi shook her head. "I do not think there will be a husband," she said. "There are not enough men in Botswana. That is a well-known fact. All the men are married now and there is nobody left."

    "Well, you don't have to get married," said Mma Ramotswe. "Single girls can have a very good life these days. I am single. I am not married."

    "But you are marrying Mr J.L.B. Matekoni," said Mma Makutsi. "You will not be single for long. You could ..."

    "I didn't have to marry him," interrupted Mma Ramotswe. "I was happy by myself. I could have stayed that way."

    She stopped. She noticed that Mma Makutsi had taken her spectacles off again and was polishing them once more. They had misted over.

    Mma Ramotswe thought for a moment. She had never been able to see unhappiness and not do something about it. It was a difficult quality for a private detective to have, as there was so much unhappiness entailed in her work, but she could not harden her heart, however much she tried. "Oh, and there's another thing," she said. "I didn't tell you that in this new job of yours you will be described as Assistant Manager of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors. It is not just a secretarial job."

    Mma Makutsi looked up and smiled.

    "That is very good," she said. "You are very kind to me, Mma."

    "And there will be more money," said Mma Ramotswe, throwing caution aside. "Not much more, but a little bit more. You will be able to send a bit more up to those people of yours up in Bobonong."

    Mma Makutsi appeared considerably cheered by this information, and there was a zest in the way in which she performed the last tasks of the day, the typing of several letters which Mma Ramotswe had drafted in longhand. It was Mma Ramotswe who now seemed morose. It was Dr Leakey's fault, she decided. If he had not come into the conversation, then she might have been firmer. As it was, not only had she promoted Mma Makutsi again, but she had given her, without consulting Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, a pay rise. She would have to tell him about that, of course, but perhaps not just yet. There was always a time for the breaking of difficult news, and one had to wait for one's moment. Men usually let their defences down now and then, and the art of being a successful woman, and beating men at their own game, was to wait your moment. When that moment arrived, you could manipulate a man with very little difficulty. But you had to wait.


Excerpted from Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith. Copyright © 2001 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.


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Table of Contents

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Reading Group Guide

The introduction, discussion questions, author biography, and suggestions for further reading that follow are designed to enhance your group's discussion of Alexander McCall Smith's Morality for Beautiful Girls, the third installment in the acclaimed Precious Ramotswe series.

1. The values of courtesy, respect, and politeness—proper forms of greeting and speech, in particular—are stressed throughout the Precious Ramotswe novels. Which characters in Morality for Beautiful Girls adhere to these traditional courtesies? Which characters violate them? What are the moral implications of upholding or ignoring such traditions?

2. How surprising is it that Mr J.L.B. Matekoni suffers from depression in Morality for Beautiful Girls? What might be the causes of that depression? What seems to bring him out of it?

3. Clovis Anderson, author of The Principles of Private Detection, writes that there is 'very little drama' in being a detective and that 'those who are looking for romance should lay down this manual . . . and do something else' [p. 59]. Most detective novels do, however, rely on adventure and 'drama' to sustain their readers' interest. What makes the Precious Ramotswe novels so engaging even in the absence of such drama?

4. In considering a friend who treated her maid badly, Mma Ramotswe thinks that 'such behaviour was no more than ignorance; an inability to understand the hopes and aspirations of others. That understanding . . . was the beginning of all morality. If you knew how a person was feeling, if you could imagine yourself in her position, then surely it would be impossible to inflict further pain. Inflicting pain insuch circumstances would be like hurting oneself' [p. 77]. Which characters in the novel demonstrate this ability to empathize with others? Which characters fail to do so? Why, ultimately, is this kind of compassion so important?

5. Clovis Anderson also warns against making 'prior assumptions' and deciding 'in advance what's what and who's who' [p. 125]. In what instance does Mma Ramotswe make this mistake? Where else in the novel do assumptions turn out to be false? In what ways are being a reader and being a detective similar, in terms of this matter of making assumptions?

6. How is Mma Makutsi able to transform Mr J.L.B. Matekoni's lazy, irresponsible apprentices into hard-working mechanics? What qualities of character does she display in her management of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors? Why do these boys respond to her so well?

7. Early in the novel, Mma Makutsi relates an article she has read about the anthropologist, Richard Leaky, which shows that the human species originated in East Africa. Mma Ramotswe asks, 'so we are all brothers and sisters, in a sense?' To which Mma Makutsi replies, 'We are. . . . We are all the same people. Eskimos, Russians, Nigerians. They are the same as us. Same blood. Same DNA' [p. 12]. What are the implications, for the moral questions that the novel raises, of this statement? What does it suggest about distinctions based on race?

8. In trying to find a morally suitable girl to win the beauty contest, Mma Makutsi believes, 'the difficulty was that good girls were unlikely to enter a beauty competition in the first place. It was, in general, not the sort of thing that good girls thought of doing' [p. 204]. What does this passage suggest about the relationship between beauty and morality, or between appearance and essence? Is Mma Makutsi right about all this?

9. The later chapters of Morality for Beautiful Girls alternate between Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi and their respective investigations. What does this parallel narrative structure add to the novel?

10. What enables Mma Ramotswe to discover what is really happening with the Government Man's brother and his farm? In what ways do her intelligence, intuition, experience, and keen observation serve her in arriving at the truth of the situation?

11. The plot of Morality for Beautiful Girls revolves not around the unraveling of a crime, or the intent to commit a crime, but around discovering the absence of such intent. In most detective novels, this outcome would be a disappointment, at the very least. Why is it a satisfying and appropriate ending for this story?

12. One reviewer observed that 'for all their apparent simplicity, the Precious Ramotswe books are highly sophisticated' [The Spectator]. In what ways do these books appear simple? What accounts for their underlying sophistication? What do they teach us about ourselves?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 71 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(40)

4 Star

(18)

3 Star

(8)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(3)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 71 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 26, 2012

    A lovely read.

    Not nearly as wonderful as the first in the series, (hard to top) but another nice read that follows the life of Precious. Delightful.....and as my friends who lived in Lesotho and Botswana say, McCall is pitch perfect in every detail of life there.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 6, 2010

    A pleasing and informative series

    This series entertains while giving the reader a look into the very different life lived in Africa. We become acquainted with some of the traditions of the African people while getting to know and admire the strong-willed and clever Mma Ramotswe, proprietress of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. Mma Ramotswe is deeply dedicated to her clients, her employees, and her friends. She strives to do what is right, and does not always have the heart to put herself and her business ahead of others, though she really needs to. As with all the books in this series, her cases are varied and many, and range from amusing -which beauty contestant is the shallowest? - to implausible -is the mysterious un-talking boy who smells of lion really a feral child? - to plausible -is someone slowly poisoning a young husband? - Mma Ramotswe values integrity and reliability above all else, and treats each case -and every person- with serious and careful consideration.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2009

    Not a Thriller

    While these are not the mystery thrillers that crowd our market, it doesn't change my interest in them. I took this book on a plane to read while in flight and at my destination. I ended up bringing it home with me which I seldom do. It was not for the mystery, but for the life messages contained in the book. I find myself reading them to my family.
    Too bad the ladies weren't vampires so our younger readers would dig into the books.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2003

    How can you not love these books?

    I love this series and can't wait for the next book. They bring to life an African country I know little about and a value system that is gone from our world (USA). The characters are real and warm, people you would like to sit down with and have a cup of tea. Her detective work is serious and sometimes sad, but also funny and helpful to those with problems large or small. A great summer read but do start with book #1.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2013

    Yucy book

    I hated it

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2013

    I am reading this series in order

    I am reading this series in order and I love Precious and her story. The chapters are short and the stories are simple - but the message is profound.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2012

    Vote

    Will be on april 18 throigh 21 the awards gonna be...... most helpful award,most popular award and most here!!!!! There will be voting whos the smartest coolest and beautifulest!!!!! Chlow much love auestions answered at res2

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  • Posted December 1, 2012

    Highly Recommend

    I read all the books in this series and really enjoyed them all including this one. I want to read more of Alexander McCall Smith's other writings.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A feel good read

    This book as well as the others in this series is a good read. Great book for women everywhere. Message: smarts are more important then looks and it will get you further. An unusual plot for the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency but an important morality for women to learn. Mma Ramotswe's assistant (Mma Makutsi) needed just this kind of case to boost her confidence in making up for (according to her) her own lack of beauty.

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  • Posted March 3, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Continue to find joy in reading this series, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. Anticipating the HBO Series March 29!

    The third book in this series, shows the unconditional love Madam Ramotswe, has for her fiance in his time of great need. These women show great strength and widsom. Add the story of love, mystery, and drama makes this series a must read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2009

    Delightful episode in the continuing stories of Precious and her detective agency. Characters feel real. Botswana seems to have some desirable country characteristics and charm.

    The Number One Ladies Detective Agency, Tears of the Giraffe, Water for Elephants, Bel Canto, Run.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2006

    Morally great!!!

    In this novel, Precious Ramotswe plans the merger of the offices and staffs of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and the Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors garage. Mma Makutsi assures her that she can straighten out the garage files. Then Mma Ramotswe discovers that Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni is suffering from depression and unable to concentrate on any of his work. The two apprentices are mostly goofing off and getting very little work done. Precious offers the position of assistant manager of the garage to Mma Makutsi in addition to her other duties. The new assistant manager soon takes charge, motivating the apprentices and satisfying the customers. Mma Pakotwane asks Precious for some advice concerning a child newly received by the orphanage. The child will not wear clothes and is unable to speak. Moreover, one of the men who found the child in the wild stated that the boy smelled of lions. Mma Ramotswe reluctantly takes on a big case for a very important Government Man, who believes that his brother is being poisoned by the brother's new wife. Mma goes to live with the family for a while and even gets poisoned along with most of the family. While Precious is away, Mma Makutsi takes on a case for Mr. Moemedi Pulani concerning the participants in the Miss Beauty and Integrity contest. Mr. Pulani is well known in Botswana for his beauty pageants and contributions to charity. However, two scandals in recent pageants have persuaded him to consider integrity as well as beauty in the contestants. While he has tried to weed out the immoral girls, he is beginning to think that he has not done that good of a job. He asks Mma Makutsi to investigate the five remaining participants and determine which are moral enough to meet his standards. He wants the job done within three days.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2005

    Can a Man Really Write About Women So Convincingly?

    Having read all of the books in this series, it is still hard for me to believe that a man is the author! McCall Smith captures the thoughts and emotions of Mme Ramotswe and her assistant so convincingly that you have to keep glancing at his photo on the back of the jacket to make sure he's really a he! While the plot lines of the Ladies' Detective Agency books are simple, the stories are beautifully told and make you feel as if you are really in Botswana.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2003

    This is a SIX star book!

    This book, like all the others by this wonderful and personally delightful author, is truly a SIX star book - as are all the others in this series. Buy the lot and then look out for the new ones he has written. You will be enchanted - as I was!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2003

    Another 5 Star Book!

    I just loved this book, loved everything about it. I see that some have been critical about this series of books, claiming they are too simple. Simple? Perhaps, but complex too. The stories are told simply, straightforward, easy to read, easy to follow, hard to put down. This is some of the very best writing I've read in a long time, fiction with soul, class, fun, joy, honesty. These books make me cry and laugh. Everyone I know is reading them now or has just finished all four of them. We only wish there were more of them. Best read of the summer, by far. Treat yourself to these totally cool, fabulously fun, wonderful books!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2003

    A Delightful Series

    I first saw the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency on the B&N site, then it popped up on the best seller list. After picking it up a few times I finally purchased it out of curiousity. I am not usually a reader of the cozy-type mystery and with the front cover hailing it The Miss Marple of Botswana I was reluctant to buy a copy. I had no idea what to expect, but I am always on the lookout for a new (to me) author. I finished the first and bought the next two in the series. I have just finished Morality For Beautiful Girls. All three books were quite enjoyable reads with likeable characters. The books were a cultural learning experience. The detecting and deducing is interspersed with wonderful stories and writings of African culture, words of wisdom and wit. These books are quite different from what I usually read, but I certainly plan to continue with this entertaining series. HOWEVER, I do recommend reading them in order so that you may see each character and their story unfold.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 71 Customer Reviews

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