Apr 17, 2012

[Books] Blue Shoes and Happiness (The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency - Book 7)

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is definitely easy reading for me. As far as mysteries go, they're actually pretty light on the whole mystery side of things when you really get down to it. We rarely have dead victims apart maybe from that guy with the crocodile. There are a few thefts but nothing overly elaborate. And we don't get complex smuggling rings or drug runners either.

And that's a major part of the appeal of these books. You don't get into the series for excessive excitement, danger and thrills. You get into this series for a rather uncommon brand of common sense put to very good use in solving the seemingly smaller but no less important little mysteries of every day life in Botswana.

And that's the curious thing. You'd think that these sorts of stories would bore a geek like me, and yet I find myself reading one book after the other. They're just so darned comfortable. They help one rest one's weary mind after a long day at work. They don't require too much thought or effort, and yet they flow through your so well, the stories just leave you feeling a sense of warmth and contentment once you're done. And that's a nice quality to find in a book to be sure.

Blue Shoes and Happiness is the seventh book in The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series of novels by Alxendar McCall Smith. And thus we continue in our adventures with the only lady detective in Gaborone, Botswana.

Overlooking Mokolodi Nature Reserve, just outs...
Overlooking Mokolodi Nature Reserve, just outside of Gabrone, Botswana (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
After quite a number of novels where we mostly followed the personal mysteries of Precious Ramotswe and those immediately close to her, we finally get back to actual cases for the detective agency to solve. These involve a cook who is being blackmailed by a person unknown, a nurse who suspects that the doctor that she is working for is up to no good and finally an unusual mystery causing the workers at the Mokolodi Nature Reserve to be particularly on edge during a chance visit.

But back on the more personal front (and we can never fully leave that), we focus more on Precious Ramotswe's Assistant Detective Mma Makutsi. In the last book she managed to get herself engaged to the kind Phuti Radiphuti. But now she worries that her being a strong woman (and in many ways a feminist) may cause him to cancel the wedding out of fear or something along those lines.

It was nice to finally get back to actual cases again. As much as we had light mysteries in the past books, I can only do so much of following around the main cast and seeing how to "fix" their little problems. I need a little action! Or at least the limited action that we get in Gaborone anyway. And this collection of cases, although not necessarily paid ones, certainly presented an interesting challenge for the little crew. And it's nice to see how even Mr. Polopetsi is trying his hand at solving these little mysterious beyond just being another helpful hand at the garage.

This book gave us a closer look into the thinking of Mma Makutsi, some that has been steadily building in the past books especially with her dance classes in the last one. And this time around she's all focused on trying to save her marriage which may end even before it truly begins! But she's a strong lady and one who can think on her feet for as long as she doesn't give her mouth free reign. And thus it becomes all the more fascinating how she puzzles through this particular problem.

The other odd bit was Mma Ramotswe finally feeling bad about her weight. While a few friends have commented on this fact here and there, additional words from a doctor sort of stressed this point even more. And thus we have her finally considering going on a diet - and woe betide those "traditionally built" fans who have always looked to her for support!

But don't forget, this is still Precious Ramotswe. And she has detective skills and common sense in spades, so we can trust her to puzzle through even that personal crisis and figure out the best forward.

That's the key thing about this series and what makes it so enjoyable. It isn't quite dedicated to just solving mysteries. Instead we have a collection of books dedicated to solving problems. Two similar things and yet highly different as well.

 Blue Shoes and Happiness is another great addition to the franchise and one that feels closer to the right track in terms of the strengths that made the series so much fun to begin with. Thus the book gets 4 instances of Mma Ramotswe struggling with her new diet out of a possible 5.

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