The Barnes & Noble Review
Mma Precious Ramotswe, founder of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, is a full-figured lady with a very busy and happy life. She has work that challenges and fulfills her. She's engaged to one of the finest mechanics in Botswana -- a man she respects and loves. Her home on Zebra Drive pleases her. Her assistant and protégée, Mma Makutsi (founder of the Kalahari Typing School for Men), is flourishing. And Precious is enjoying managing the lives of the two foster children her fiancé brought to her from the orphan farm. All told, her cupboard of life is practically bursting with blessings.
Of course, even the happiest life has some troubles…and right now Precious has her share of those as well. In this fifth volume of the bestselling series by Alexander McCall Smith, marriage is much on Mma Ramotswe's mind. She's somewhat concerned that, despite the fact she's been engaged to Mr J.L.B. Matekoni for some time now and is absolutely certain of his affection, her beloved has proven most unwilling to set a date to make her the happiest of women. At present, even work offers her little distraction. The case that currently occupies her attention involves still more matrimonial problems, notably checking up on several potential suitors vying for the hand of a wealthy lady who owns a chain of hair braiding salons. Precious knows that her own suitor is an honorable gentleman who would never marry for money or prove otherwise unworthy of any trust that has been placed in him. But it's still not easy for her to be spending so much time in the company of men who do not live by such high standards. And it's worrying her that Mr J.L.B. Matekoni seems to have several other concerns that he's allowing to take precedence over their long-delayed matrimonial plans. Of course, it's only natural for him to be absorbed in properly training the all-too-distractible apprentices in his charge. And it is also perfectly understandable that he would be preoccupied about making the parachute jump for charity that the matron of the orphan farm has arranged. And anyone would worry about confronting the unscrupulous mechanics that did such a terrible job on the valuable old car that is now in his care.
Fortunately, Mma Ramotswe is strong in the traditional Botswanan values of honesty, generosity, and kindness. That makes her a formidable ally for her friends and her clients…and a fearsome opponent for anyone who fails to meet her expectations about proper behavior and responsibility. Alexander McCall Smith was born in what is now known as Zimbabwe and was a law professor at the University of Botswana before relocating to Scotland. His knowledge of and affection for the land and people of Africa comes through clearly in the rich descriptions and captivating characters that have made his No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency series an international phenomenon. Sue Stone
The Full Cupboard of Life is by no means oppressively sweet, but it is committed to looking on life's sunny side. And its characters, like the one who watches a special mango ripen on a tree, have a primitivism that is as reductive as it is warm. At one point, someone suggests that "How to Get 97 Percent" would be an appealing title for a book. It's one that could easily be applied to Mr. Smith's big-hearted Botswanan stories.
Smith once again transports readers to Gaborone, capital of Botswana, home to the gentle but no-nonsense Precious Ramotswe, who relies as much on her intuition as on the facts in her masterful crime-solving.Kathy Balog
Precious Ramotswe is on the case again in this delightful fifth installment in the bestselling No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, this time assisting the self-made founder of a chain of hairdressing salons who wants to unearth the real intentions of her four suitors, each possibly more interested in her money than her heart. As fans know, though, sleuthing takes second place to folksy storytelling in McCall Smith's wry novels. This time around, Mma Ramotswe is distracted by her long-prolonged engagement to Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, Gaborone's best mechanic; it seems she will never be married, despite her fianc 's honorable intentions. He installs an extra large seatbelt in her car to keep her safe (she is quite comfortable with her "traditional build," despite the new, slender fashion of modern woman), but an altercation with another mechanic and the prospect of a charity parachute jump keep his mind off matrimony. A drive for decency motivates Mma Ramotswe and her friends-among them Mma Potokwani, the imperious matron of the local orphan farm, and Mma Makutsi, assistant at the Ladies' Detective Agency and founder of the Kalahari Typing School for Men-and Smith's talent is in portraying this moral code in a manner that is always engaging. As readers will appreciate, Mma Ramotswe solves her cases-more questions of character, really, than of criminal behavior-in good time. Traditionally built ladies living in the African heat don't tend to hurry, and, at the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, there's always time for another cup of tea. Agent, Robin Straus. (Apr. 20) Forecast: Fans will love the surprise in store for Precious Ramotswe at the end of the novel, and should bump this on bestseller lists. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Thankfully, Mma Precious Ramotswe is back in another delightful adventure. The fifth book in Smith's popular "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series finds Precious humorously and intuitively pondering her status as the longtime fianc e of Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, as the primary guardian of two children from the orphan farm, and, of course, as the proprietress of Botswana's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. In addition to her personal life, Mma Precious has taken on the professional tasks of screening suitors for a wealthy salon owner and getting Mr. Matekoni out of a precarious situation. Returning with Mma Ramotswe are the usual cast of memorable supporting characters, and Smith introduces several new and well-drawn personalities. With the charm and visual detail so characteristic of this series, readers are treated to another enchanting slice of Mma Ramotswe's world. Sure to please both enduring fans and new readers, this is highly recommended for all fiction and mystery collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/03.]-Nicole A. Cooke, Montclair State Univ. Lib., Upper Montclair, NJ Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Adult/High School-In this fifth installment about the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Mma Ramotswe and her assistant, Mma Makutsi, tackle the case of a wealthy woman who wants to know which of her suitors is only after her money. On a personal note, Mma Ramotswe worries over when her fianc will set a date for their marriage, and more urgently, who will replace him in performing the parachute jump, a charity event to raise money for the Orphan Farm. The charm of this series set in Botswana is its wealth of very real characters. By Western standards they may be economically poor, but in terms of pride, love, and happiness, they are rich indeed. Readers will be seduced by the beauty of the land and intrigued by local customs. They will learn about drought and irrigation, about growing pumpkins, braiding hair, and dealing with poisonous snakes. The cases Mma Ramotswe handles are more about solving problems than crimes. Her behavior is governed by good manners, politeness, and honesty, and her favorite tool in the art of detecting is tea, preferably Bush Tea. The book has lots of humor, and optimism softens the tough realities of life. It also has a delightful surprise ending.-Sheila Janega, Fairfax County Public Library, Great Falls, VA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Another charmingly gossamer mystery for Botswana's premier detective. Mma Precious Ramotswe, of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, often takes on clients whose problems are reflections of her own (The Kalahari Typing School for Men, 2003, etc.). The problems this time involve marriage. Mma Holonga, founder of a chain of hairdressing salons and inventor of the wondrous Special Girl Hair Braiding Preparation, having narrowed the field of men applying for the position of husband to a wealthy woman to four, wants Mma Ramotswe to investigate the finalists and report whether they are more interested in Mma Holonga or in her money. The "traditionally built" Mma Ramotswe takes an especially keen interest in the case because her own engagement to Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, the gentlemanly mechanic who shares her Gaborone office building, seems becalmed in an endlessly premarital state; although she can't imagine marrying anyone else, it's becoming difficult to imagine actually marrying Mr J.L.B. Matekoni either. As for her fiance, he's distracted by troubles of his own, from his need to confront his ignoble competitors at First Class Motors to his having been pressured into aiding Mma Silvia Potokwani's orphan farm by signing up subscribers to sponsor a parachute jump she wants him to make. As usual in this enchanting series, Mma Ramotswe provides less detection than advice, and wise advice it turns out to be, even when her clients decline to take it. Agent: Robin Straus/Robin Straus Agency
“What would summer be without a visit to Botswana and the private detective agency run by Precious Ramotswe? The point of these books...is not to uncover mysteries, at least not directly, but rather, discuss the vagaries of the human heart and what makes people tick.” Ottawa Citizen
“Sometimes, to paraphrase Emily Dickinson, a book really is a journey to a faraway place.... In a decade when realism—in the style of Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane and Ian Rankin—has been the hallmark of quality, Alexander McCall Smith stands alone in his defense of the charm and unreality of the British-style mystery, puzzle-plot and all.... If Mma Ramotswe and her friends continue to care for one another in village style, ignore Western ideas of beauty, and celebrate life in their traditional way, it’s all part of the perfect journey to a faraway place, and that’s what The Full Cupboard of Life delivers.” Margaret Cannon, The Globe and Mail