July 06, 2003

Tears of the Giraffe, by Alexander McCall Smith

This is the second book in the "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series", and it feels very much like a continuation of the first book. As before, the book concerns several investigations, some consecutive, some simultaneous, and as before Mma Ramotswe goes beyond investigating to meddling (for the client's own good, of course). Her secretary, Mma Makutsi, is promoted to Assistant Detective and given a case of her own; this prompts several discussions of the moral issues involved in detective work.

But the real focus is on Mma Ramotswe's fiance, Mr. J.L.B. Maketoni, proprietor of Tlakweng Road Speedy Motors--a man who is hard-working, dignified, kind-hearted, generous to a fault, and not always particularly observant. His kind nature leads him into several predicaments during the book, including one particular case where he doesn't know how to tell Mma Ramotswe what he's done but every hour he delays will make the revelation more painful. I must award laurels to Smith here--some authors would have stretched out the pain for most of the book, requiring Mr. J.L.B. Maketoni to do progressively more idiotic things to keep Mma Ramotswe in the dark. (I hate this.) (Except in P.G. Wodehouse, but that's farce, so it's OK.) Instead, it's resolved fairly quickly.

The Mitfordesque tone continues--indeed, strengthens. That said, I don't know whether Mitford fans will like these books. Being detective novels, they must occasionally deal with the sordid...and Mma Ramotswe, for all her goodness, frequently makes moral decisions that would raise even Fr. Tim's eyebrows. Mitford fans--if the Christian content is the primary thing that draws you to Jan Karon's books, be aware that though the tone is similar, these aren't those.

Anyway, I liked this one too.

Posted by Will Duquette at July 6, 2003 04:56 PM