Synopses & Reviews
THE NO. 1 LADIES' DETECTIVE AGENCY.
FOR ALL CONFIDENTIAL MATTERS AND ENQUIRIES.
SATISFACTION GUARANTEED FOR ALL PARTIES.
UNDER PERSONAL MANAGEMENT.
A beguiling mystery and lyrical novel of Africa the fourth in a series that the L.A. Times calls "thoroughly engaging and entertaining."
Now that The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (the only detective agency for ladies and others in Botswana) is established, its founder, Precious Ramotswe, can look upon her life with pride: she's reached her late thirties ("the finest age to be"), has a house, two children, a good fiancé Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni and many satisfied customers. But life is never without its problems.
It turns out that her adopted son is responsible for the dead hoopoe bird in the garden; her assistant, Mma Makutsi, wants a husband and needs help with her idea to open the Kalahari Typing School for Men; yet Mma Ramotswe's sexist rival has no trouble opening his Satisfaction Guaranteed Detective Agency across town. Will Precious Ramotswe's delightfully cunning and profoundly moral methods save the day? Follow the continuing story of Botswana's first lady detective in the irresistible The Kalahari Typing School for Men.
"In spots, Kalahari feels a wee rushed....But if the new edition doesn't quite live up to the superior Morality for Beautiful Girls, it still brims with good humor and compassion. (Grade: B+)" Karen Valby, Entertainment Weekly
"Readers who haven't yet discovered Mma Ramotswe will enjoy discovering how her quiet humor, understated observation, and resolutely domestic approach to detection promise to put Botswana on the sleuthing map for good." Kirkus Reviews
"A dose of easy humor laces the pages, as McCall Smith throws in wry observations....This is another graceful entry in a pleasingly modest and wise series." Publishers Weekly
"The fourth title in an internationally popular series...features an exotic African setting and charming, memorable characters. Recommended." Library Journal
"Reader, be warned: This is not your ordinary detective novel....The Kalahari Typing School for Men maintains the breezy-to-read, gentle tone of Smith's previous work, and leaves us wanting more adventures ASAP." Daneet Steffens, The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
Now that the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is established, its founder, Precious Ramotswe, can look upon her life with pride: she's reached her late thirties ("the finest age to be"), has a house, two children, a good fiance, and many satisfied customers. But life is never without its problems.
Now that the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is established, its founder, Precious Ramotswe, can look upon her life with pride. But life is never without its problems, as she discovers in this fourth book in a series the L.A. Times calls "thoroughly engaging and entertaining."
Academy Award-winning writer/director Anthony Minghella (The English Patient, Cold Mountain), along with Sydney Pollack's company Mirage, will be producing The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency TV series with New Africa Media Films.
About the Author
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 more than fifty books: novels, children's books, a short story collection, and specialized titles such as Forensic Aspects of Sleep. He lives in Scotland.
Reading Group Guide
The introduction, discussion questions, author biography, and suggested reading list that follow are designed to enhance your group’s discussion of Alexander McCall Smith’s The Kalahari Typing School for Men
, the fourth novel in the acclaimed Precious Ramotswe series.
1. What themes and situations recur throughout the Precious Ramotswe novels? In what ways are the books similar? What new characters and developments keep the stories fresh?
2. Mma Ramotswe observes, “The trouble with men, of course, was that they went about with their eyes half closed for much of the time. Sometimes Mma Ramotswe wondered whether men actually wanted to see anything, or whether they decided that they would notice only the things that interested them” [p. 17]. Is this an accurate assessment? What other statements about the differences between men and women occur in The Kalahari Typing School for Men? What perception about male psychology allows Mma Makutsi to open the typing school?
3. What prompts Mr. Molefelo to seek out Mma Ramotswe’s help? In what ways is his request different from what most people would ask of a private detective?
4. In considering the changing morality of modern times, Mma Ramotswe suggests that people are now “far too ready to abandon their husbands and wives because they had tired of them. . . . And friends, too. They could become very demanding, but all you had to do was to walk out. Where had all this come from, she wondered. It was not African, she thought, and it certainly had nothing to do with the old Botswana morality. So it must have come from somewhere else” [p. 107]. Where might such changes in attitude have come from? What are the consequences of this weakened sense of loyalty, in the novel particularly, and in society more generally?
5. How does Mma Ramotswe respond to Motholeli’s unhappiness? Why is she able to sympathize with the orphan girl’s pain so strongly? What important message does Mma Ramotswe give her?
6. Discussing the relationship between education and experience, Mma Potokwani says that “You don’t have to read a book to understand how the world works. . . . You just have to keep your eyes open.” Mma Ramotswe agrees but feels a “great respect for books. . . . One could never read enough. Never” [p. 130]. How does Mma Ramotswe herself embody a balance between knowledge gained from direct experience of life and knowledge gained from books?
7. Why does Mr. Cephas Buthelezi, the arrogant detective who tries to usurp Mma Ramotswe, decide to quit? Why do all his experience, training, and travels fail to serve him in Botswana? What does he lack that Mma Ramotswe has in abundance?
8. As Mma Ramotswe confronts Mr. Sleleipeng about his behavior toward Mma Makutsi, she refrains from lecturing him. “I could never be a judge, she thought; I could not sit there and punish people after they have begun to feel sorry for what they have done” [p. 178]. Where else in the novel does she exhibit this ability to listen without judging? How does this ethos differ from the typical ways of dealing with the guilty in American detective fiction and American life more generally? Why is Mma Ramotswe able to feel such compassion even for those who have clearly hurt others?
9. In place of violence and revenge, the Precious Ramotswe novels substitute understanding and forgiveness. How is Alexander McCall Smith able to make this reversal of values so satisfying, in both the literary and moral senses?
10. Near the end of The Kalahari Typing School for Men, as the novel’s various problems are being resolved, Mma Ramotswe observes, “It was astonishing how life had a way of working out, even when everything looked so complicated and unpromising” [p. 183]. Does the novel resolve its problems too easily? Or do these resolutions faithfully reflect the degree to which Mma Ramotswe, Mma Makutsi, Mr J.L.B. Maketoni, Mma Potokwani, and other characters live in harmony with their world?
11. Mr. Buthelezi trumpets his “toughness” and police-force experience in dealing with serious criminals, along with his knowledge of how detective work is done in New York and other big cities. Is Alexander McCall Smith poking fun, through the character of Mr. Buthelezi, at the kind of detective who appears in more conventional mystery novels? Why is Mr. Buthelezi so ill suited to the needs of the people of Botswana?
12. What is so appealing about the world in which Mma Ramotswe lives? In what ways is it different from contemporary American society? Are the values and attitudes of Mma Ramotswe translatable to American soil?