In Alexander McCall Smith’s eighth installment of the Precious Ramotswe series set in Botswana, new truths about life are uncovered. It is a time of change for the trusty cast of characters. Mma Ramotswe must solve a case of suspected murder in a hospital and a series of thefts in a printing company. As usual, she uses her keen sense of observation and her uncanny knowledge of human nature to solve cases. Her assistant Mma Makutsi, now engaged to a wealthy furniture store owner, decides she needs a change and resigns from the No. I Ladies’ Detective Agency. Mma Ramotswe’s husband, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, also wants to experience new challenges by trying his hand at sleuthing in a case of marital infidelity. Meanwhile, Charlie, one of his apprentices, quits his job to start his own taxi service. It seems everyone is moving in different directions.
Alexander McCall Smith’s gentle stories of life in Africa provide a wonderful backdrop for his strong messages about modern-day society. His descriptions of Botswana are luminous:
“Mma Ramotswe looked out the window, at that square of land, at the acacia tree that fingered into the empty sky; a little slice of her country that she loved so much, Botswana, her place.” (p. 213) In a world full of tragedy, despair and violence, the actions of individuals can make their own small corner of the world a better place. Mma Ramotswe goes about her daily investigative business by following rules of common decency, human kindness and a sense of justice. “We should forgive one another and start all over again.” (p.58)
When the case of the hospital murders takes a shockingly unexpected twist, she falls back on her sense of justice to decide what she will do with the information she has uncovered. Her actions as a loyal friend and a generous employer temper her response to Mma Matekoni’s resignation from the detective agency. She tells her, “’I would love you to stay, but I think that you have decided, haven’t you, that you need a change.” (p. 70). In the end, all the changes are resolved, and once again, “Everything, in fact, seemed to have settled down; which was exactly the way Mma Ramotswe liked it to be.” (p.197)
Alexander McCall Smith has written several series – The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series and the 44 Scotland Street series, as well as the short story collection The Girl Who Married a Lion and Other Tales from Africa. Although the locations may vary, all of his tales have some common characteristics – warmth, wit, mystery, colorful but eccentric characters, and explorations of society and modern-day values. For those of you who have read the other novels in this series, you will not be disappointed with The Good Husband of Zebra Drive. For those of you who are new to the series, you are in for a treat - you will definitely want to read the other seven books!