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Tears of the Giraffe (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series #2)
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Tears of the Giraffe (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series #2)

4.3 122
by Alexander McCall Smith

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The No.1 Ladies´ Detective Agency introduced the world to the one and only Precious Ramotswe -the engaging and sassy owner of Botswana´s only detective agency. In Tears of the Giraffe Mma Ramotswe faces a new challenge: resolving a mother´s pain for her son who is long lost on the African plains. Mma Ramotswe´s own impending marriage


The No.1 Ladies´ Detective Agency introduced the world to the one and only Precious Ramotswe -the engaging and sassy owner of Botswana´s only detective agency. In Tears of the Giraffe Mma Ramotswe faces a new challenge: resolving a mother´s pain for her son who is long lost on the African plains. Mma Ramotswe´s own impending marriage to the most gentlemanly of men, Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, the promotion of Mma´s secretary to the dizzy heights of Assistant Detective, and the arrival of new members to the Matekoni family, all brew up the most humorous and charmingly entertaining of tales.Acclaim for The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency: "The author´s prose has the merits of simplicity, euphony and precision. 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." - Anthony Daniels, Sunday Telegraph "The most entertaining read of the year." -The Guardian "An African 'Miss Marple´ . . . superb." -Sunday Times One of the "International Books of the Year and the Millennium" -Times Literary Supplement

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Alexander McCall Smith (The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency) offers the second .... installment of his dignified, humorous Botswanan series. In Tears of the Giraffe, PI Precious Ramotswe tracks a missing American man whose widowed mother appeals to Ramotswe; meanwhile, the imperturbable detective is endangered at home by her fiance's resentful maid. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher

“The Miss Marple of Botswana.” The New York Times Book Review

“Smart and sassy . . . Precious’ progress is charted in passages that have the power to amuse or shock or touch the heart, sometimes all at once.” Los Angeles Times

“I haven’t read anything with such unalloyed pleasure for a long time.” Anthony Daniels, The Sunday Telegraph

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series , #2
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.13(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.65(d)

Read an Excerpt


Mr J.L.B. Matekoni's House

Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, proprietor of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, found it difficult to believe that Mma Ramotswe, the accomplished founder of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, had agreed to marry him. It was at the second time of asking; the first posing of the question, which had required immense courage on his part, had brought forth a refusal--gentle, and regretful--but a refusal nonetheless. After that, he had assumed that Mma Ramotswe would never remarry; that her brief and disastrous marriage to Note Mokoti, trumpeter and jazz aficionado, had persuaded her that marriage was nothing but a recipe for sorrow and suffering. After all, she was an independent-minded woman, with a business to run, and a comfortable house of her own in Zebra Drive. Why, he wondered, should a woman like that take on a man, when a man could prove to be difficult to manage once vows were exchanged and he had settled himself in her house? No, if he were in Mma Ramotswe's shoes, then he might well decline an offer of marriage, even from somebody as eminently reasonable and respectable as himself.

But then, on that noumenal evening, sitting with him on her verandah after he had spent the afternoon fixing her tiny white van, she had said yes. And she had given this answer in such a simple, unambiguously kind way, that he had been confirmed in his belief that she was one of the very best women in Botswana. That evening, when he returned home to his house near the old Defence Force Club, he had reflected on the enormity of his good fortune. Here he was, in his mid-forties, a man who had until that point been unable to find a suitable wife, now blessedwith the hand of the one woman whom he admired more than any other. Such remarkable good fortune was almost inconceivable, and he wondered whether he would suddenly wake up from the delicious dream into which he seemed to have wandered.

Yet it was true. The next morning, when he turned on his bedside radio to hear the familiar sound of cattle bells with which Radio Botswana prefaced its morning broadcast, he realised that it had indeed happened and that unless she had changed her mind overnight, he was a man engaged to be married.

He looked at his watch. It was six o'clock, and the first light of the day was on the thorn tree outside his bedroom window. Smoke from morning fires, the fine wood smoke that sharpened the appetite, would soon be in the air, and he would hear the sound of people on the paths that criss-crossed the bush near his house; shouts of children on their way to school; men going sleepy-eyed to their work in the town; women calling out to one another; Africa waking up and starting the day. People arose early, but it would be best to wait an hour or so before he telephoned Mma Ramotswe, which would give her time to get up and make her morning cup of bush tea. Once she had done that, he knew that she liked to sit outside for half an hour or so and watch the birds on her patch of grass. There were hoopoes, with their black and white stripes, pecking at insects like little mechanical toys, and the strutting ring-neck doves, engaged in their constant wooing. Mma Ramotswe liked birds, and perhaps, if she were interested, he could build her an aviary. They could breed doves, maybe, or even, as some people did, something bigger, such as buzzards, though what they would do with buzzards once they had bred them was not clear. They ate snakes, of course, and that would be useful, but a dog was just as good a means of keeping snakes out of the yard.

When he was a boy out at Molepolole, Mr J.L.B. Matekoni had owned a dog which had established itself as a legendary snake-catcher. It was a thin brown animal, with one or two white patches, and a broken tail. He had found it, abandoned and half-starved, at the edge of the village, and had taken it home to live with him at his grandmother's house. She had been unwilling to waste food on an animal that had no apparent function, but he had won her round and the dog had stayed. Within a few weeks it had proved its usefulness, killing three snakes in the yard and one in a neighbour's melon patch. From then on, its reputation was assured, and if anybody was having trouble with snakes they would ask Mr J.L.B. Matekoni to bring his dog round to deal with the problem.

The dog was preternaturally quick. Snakes, when they saw it coming, seemed to know that they were in mortal danger. The dog, hair bristling and eyes bright with excitement, would move towards the snake with a curious gait, as if it were standing on the tips of its claws. Then, when it was within a few feet of its quarry, it would utter a low growl, which the snake would sense as a vibration in the ground. Momentarily confused, the snake would usually begin to slide away, and it was at this point that the dog would launch itself forward and nip the snake neatly behind the head. This broke its back, and the struggle was over.

Mr J.L.B. Matekoni knew that such dogs never reached old age. If they survived to the age of seven or eight, their reactions began to slow and the odds shifted slowly in favour of the snake. Mr J.L.B. Matekoni's dog eventually fell victim to a banded cobra, and died within minutes of the bite. There was no dog who could replace him, but now . . . Well, this was just another possibility that opened up. They could buy a dog and choose its name together. Indeed, he would suggest that she choose both the dog and the name, as he was keen that Mma Ramotswe should not feel that he was trying to take all the decisions. In fact, he would be happy to take as few decisions as possible. She was a very competent woman, and he had complete confidence in her ability to run their life together, as long as she did not try to involve him in her detective business. That was simply not what he had in mind. She was the detective; he was the mechanic. That was how matters should remain.

He telephoned shortly before seven. Mma Ramotswe seemed pleased to hear from him and asked him, as was polite in the Setswana language, whether he had slept well.

"I slept very well," said Mr J.L.B. Matekoni. "I dreamed all the night about that clever and beautiful woman who has agreed to marry me."

He paused. If she was going to announce a change of mind, then this was the time that she might be expected to do it.

Mma Ramotswe laughed. "I never remember what I dream," she said. "But if I did, then I am sure that I would remember dreaming about that first-class mechanic who is going to be my husband one day."

Mr J.L.B. Matekoni smiled with relief. She had not thought better of it, and they were still engaged.

"Today we must go to the President Hotel for lunch," he said. "We shall have to celebrate this important matter."

Mma Ramotswe agreed. She would be ready at twelve o'clock and afterwards, if it was convenient, perhaps he would allow her to visit his house to see what it was like. There would be two houses now, and they would have to choose one. Her house on Zebra Drive had many good qualities, but it was rather close to the centre of town and there was a case for being farther away. His house, near the old airfield, had a larger yard and was undoubtedly quieter, but was not far from the prison and was there not an overgrown graveyard nearby? That was a major factor; if she were alone in the house at night for any reason, it would not do to be too close to a graveyard. Not that Mma Ramotswe was superstitious; her theology was conventional and had little room for unquiet spirits and the like, and yet, and yet . . .

In Mma Ramotswe's view there was God, Modimo, who lived in the sky, more or less directly above Africa. God was extremely understanding, particularly of people like herself, but to break his rules, as so many people did with complete disregard, was to invite retribution. When they died, good people, such as Mma Ramotswe's father, Obed Ramotswe, were undoubtedly welcomed by God. The fate of the others was unclear, but they were sent to some terrible place--perhaps a bit like Nigeria, she thought--and when they acknowledged their wrongdoing they would be forgiven.

God had been kind to her, thought Mma Ramotswe. He had given her a happy childhood, even if her mother had been taken from her when she was a baby. She had been looked after by her father and her kind cousin and they had taught her what it was to give love--love which she had in turn given, over those few precious days, to her tiny baby. When the child's battle for life had ended, she had briefly wondered why God had done this to her, but in time she had understood. Now his kindness to her was manifest again, this time in the appearance of Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, a good kind, man. God had sent her a husband.

After their celebration lunch in the President Hotel--a lunch at which Mr J.L.B. Matekoni ate two large steaks and Mma Ramotswe, who had a sweet tooth, dipped into rather more ice cream than she had originally intended--they drove off in Mr J.L.B. Matekoni's pickup truck to inspect his house.

"It is not a very tidy house," said Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, anxiously. "I try to keep it tidy, but that is a difficult thing for a man. There is a maid who comes in, but she makes it worse, I think. She is a very untidy woman."

"We can keep the woman who works for me," said Mma Ramotswe. "She is very good at everything. Ironing. Cleaning. Polishing. She is one of the best people in Botswana for all these tasks. We can find some other work for your person."

"And there are some rooms in this house that have got motor parts in them," added Mr J.L.B. Matekoni hurriedly. "Sometimes I have not had enough room at the garage and have had to store them in the house--interesting engines that I might need some day."

Mma Ramotswe said nothing. She now knew why Mr J.L.B. Matekoni had never invited her to the house before. His office at Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors was bad enough, with all that grease and those calendars that the parts suppliers sent him. They were ridiculous calendars, in her view, with all those far-too-thin ladies sitting on tyres and leaning against cars. Those ladies were useless for everything. They would not be good for having children, and not one of them looked as if she had her school certificate, or even her standard six. They were useless, good-time girls, who only made men all hot and bothered, and that was no good to anybody. If only men knew what fools of them these bad girls made; but they did not know it and it was hopeless trying to point it out to them.

They arrived at the entrance to his driveway and Mma Ramotswe sat in the car while Mr J.L.B. Matekoni pushed open the silver-painted gate. She noted that the dustbin had been pushed open by dogs and that scraps of paper and other rubbish were lying about. If she were to move here--if--that would soon he stopped. In traditional Botswana society, keeping the yard in good order was a woman's responsibility, and she would certainly not wish to be associated with a yard like this.

They parked in front of the stoop, under a rough car shelter that Mr J.L.B. Matekoni had fashioned out of shade-netting. It was a large house by modern standards, built in a day when builders had no reason to worry about space. There was the whole of Africa in those days, most of it unused, and nobody bothered to save space. Now it was different, and people had begun to worry about cities and how they gobbled up the bush surrounding them. This house, a low, rather gloomy bungalow under a corrugated-tin roof, had been built for a colonial official in Protectorate days. The outer walls were plastered and whitewashed, and the floors were polished red cement, laid out in large squares. Such floors always seemed cool on the feet in the hot months, although for real comfort it was hard to better the beaten mud or cattle dung of traditional floors.

Mma Ramotswe looked about her. They were in the living room, into which the front door gave immediate entrance. There was a heavy suite of furniture--expensive in its day--but now looking distinctly down-at-heel. The chairs, which had wide wooden arms, were upholstered in red, and there was a table of black hardwood on which an empty glass and an ashtray stood. On the walls there was picture of a mountain, painted on dark velvet, a wooden kudu-head, and a small picture of Nelson Mandela. The whole effect was perfectly pleasing, thought Mma Ramotswe, although it certainly had that forlorn look so characteristic of an unmarried man's room.

"This is a very fine room," observed Mma Ramotswe.

Mr J.L.B. Matekoni beamed with pleasure. "I try to keep this room tidy," he said. "It is important to have a special room for important visitors."

"Do you have any important visitors?" asked Mma Ramotswe.

Mr J.L.B. Matekoni frowned. "There have been none so far," he said. "But it is always possible."

"Yes," agreed Mma Ramotswe. "One never knows."

She looked over her shoulder, towards a door that led into the rest of the house.

"The other rooms are that way?" she asked politely.

Mr J.L.B. Matekoni nodded. "That is the not-so-tidy part of the house," he said. "Perhaps we should look at it some other time."

Mma Ramotswe shook her head and Mr J.L.B. Matekoni realised that there was no escape. This was part and parcel of marriage, he assumed; there could be no secrets--everything had to be laid bare.

Copyright 2002 by Alexander McCall Smith

Meet the Author

ALEXANDER MCCALL SMITH is the author of the international phenomenon The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie Series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, the 44 Scotland Street series and the Corduroy Mansions series. He is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and has served with many national and international organizations concerned with bioethics. He was born in what is now known as Zimbabwe and was a law professor at the University of Botswana.

Brief Biography

Edinburgh, Scotland
Date of Birth:
August 24, 1948
Place of Birth:

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Tears of the Giraffe (The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series #2) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 122 reviews.
willownme More than 1 year ago
I am more than ever excited about this series. It really brings me into Botswana Africa. The characters are wonderful and fun to follow through all thier adventures.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a superb story McCall Smith tells in Tears of the Giraffe, and how beautifully he tells it. His No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series is fast becoming one of my favorites. Simply told, gently written, and charming in its descriptions of the people and places in the Botswana of Precious Ramotswe, makes McCall Smith's approach to storytelling unique and refreshing. Mma Precious Ramotswe, Botswana's only woman detective, and owner of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, has agreed to marry Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, proprietor of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors. However, Mr J.L.B. Matekoni's maid, Florence Peko, is not at all happy with the news and conjures up some plans of her own for Mma Ramotswe. The main plot surrounds Mma Ramotswe's search for the son of an American woman who had been missing for ten years. The woman, Andrea Curtin, does not expect her son to be alive, but she does want to know what happened to him. Mrs (no period) Curtin's husband is now dead, and all previous efforts to find her son have failed, so she pays a visit to the agency. Add to that the troubles of Mr Letsenyane Badule who wants to know if his wife is having an affair, and we have the thrust of the book. Then there are the orphans, two of whom become very important in the lives of Mma Ramotswe and Mr J.L.B. Matekoni. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Its simple, straight-forward language, and its portrayal of the qualities of the Batswana (refers to the people), kept me enthralled. I was particularly struck by the fact that Mma Ramotswe and Mr J.L.B. Matekoni were always referred to by this formal reference. More familiar forenames were never used. My only concern in reading this book was whether or not I was pronouncing names and places correctly-places like the Makadikadi Salt Pans, the town of Molepolole, and the names Tlokweng, Letsenyane and Sonqkwena, to name a few. If you read it, you will love it. Carolyn Rowe Hill
Guest More than 1 year ago
A fast flowing story set in Africa, Tears of the Giraffe is one of the best books I have read. With good values expressed through characters that are lively, this book showed a beautiful side of Africa, where commitment is held sacred, where love is deep and hospitality is the norm. Fast paced and hilarious, this book hooked me all the more to the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Apprentices den
bealsinsd More than 1 year ago
Every bit as good as the first of the series. Simple, funny, memorable characters and prose. I recommend this series to all the readers I know. I tell them it is the African equivalent of 'Murder, She Wrote', one of my favorite TV series of all time. Smith's straight-forward style is endearing, and lets the characters do the heavy lifting.
Sarah Swanson More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed book one, but Tears if the Giraffe had more emotion, plot twists and cultural insights. A touching book.
berit More than 1 year ago
Open the book and step away from who you are and where you are. This book is the second in the series and in the first book you are introduced to the characters with a few simple plots to be solved. In this, the second book, you are finding the characters to be a little more complex and the detective work even more challenging. You can almost feel the sun on your skin and the warmth of the breezes as you step away from home and into Africa. The characters are lovable and interesting, without a dull day amongst them. The book is both a study of compassion and of the land in which the story takes place. Reading this book has brought laughter and tears and a strong desire to step away and into Africa. Beautifully written and I am definately compelled to finish the series. I am reading the third in the series now. I think I shall miss them when I have read them all. Thanks goodness I bought the books, as I think that I will start over from the beginning one day. For, one day, I may need a journey into Africa again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
You still have the read the first one to get all the background on her family and Daddy, but the second one really kicks this series into high gear!
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momelaine More than 1 year ago
I don't understand all of the poor ratings on this with no comments. If you didn't like it, what didn't you like about it? Anyway, I really enjoyed this book. I have been thinking about reading one of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books for a long time and I found this one in a Little Free Library. I am very happy that I picked it up. I read it all in one day, I had to see how it turned out. I really enjoyed some of the things that were written about Africa and the culture. A friend had spent some time there as a nurse and so the story really reflected what she had shared after being there for 3 years. I definitely recommend this book. It is an easy read and very interesting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Stayed interesting through the book
monalisaSC More than 1 year ago
The characters are deep and believable, and yet from another dimension, beyond my ordinary experience. The plot seems ordinary and then becomes unique and engaging.
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Does anyone know a jake or dc
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im white and portoricon. Im 14 i have black long straight hair with pink at end. I wanna party. I do cheerleading soccer tennis softball the most. Im tan and skinny. Big ti.ts and a.zz i am wearing a blue tinktop and black jean bootyshorts. *just to make it clear im taken but i wanna party*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Okay cool
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GirasolMJC More than 1 year ago
The descriptions are incredibly vivid!
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