Catch up on the latest from Mma Ramotswe, Mma Makutsi and other favourites in How to Raise an Elephant, the twenty-first volume of Alexander McCall Smith’s beloved No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, but can Mma Ramotswe and the rest of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency team come together to raise a pipsqueak pachyderm? We may find out in this novel. We may not. Who can say?
As the temperature rises in Gaborone, Precious Ramotswe, founder of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, wonders whether the heat could be the reason that business is particularly slow. Luckily, a slower pace in life is her natural preference, unlike her colleague Mma Makutsi, who is alert to every passing observation and inclined to making snap decisions. With fewer cases to handle, Precious has time to contemplate her new neighbours, a couple who, by the sounds of it, have a rather volatile relationship . . .
But then a distant cousin of Mma Ramotswe’s comes to the agency with a plea for help, and the ladies decide to pursue the issue together. Armed with Mma Ramotswe’s circumspection and Mma Makutsi’s sharp eye, they proceed with confidence and open hearts. What, after all, could be more straightforward than a family matter?
Meanwhile, their colleague Charlie is behaving oddly, borrowing Mma Ramotswe’s van and returning it in an unusual condition. Digging a little deeper, the explanation is both strange and extraordinary, and takes Charlie, along with Mma Ramotswe’s husband, Mr J. L. B. Matekoni, on a hair-raising night-time expedition.
In the end, Precious is reminded of the need to view a picture from every angle, to accept the imperfections in people and situations, and then find a solution – preferably over a delicious slice of her friend Mma Potokwani’s fruit cake.
Precious Ramotswe, owner and only begetter of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency – established to deal with the problems of ladies, and others – looked across her office towards the desk occupied by Grace Makutsi, former secretary and distinguished graduate – with ninety-seven per cent in the final examinations – of the Botswana Secretarial College. The sun was streaming through the high window behind Mma Ramotswe’s desk, sending a narrow butter-yellow beam to illuminate small particles of floating dust, just perceptible, feather-light, moving up and down, sometimes sliding sideways in obedience to the invisible currents in the room. But for the most part the air was still – it being that sort of day, sluggish and non-committal. The sort of day on which something might happen, but was more likely not to.
It was not unusual for Mma Ramotswe to look up and see Mma Makutsi staring back at her; and the same thing might be said for Mma Makutsi, who would suddenly lift her gaze from the papers in front of her and notice Mma Ramotswe watching her thoughtfully. Neither minded this – indeed, both were used to it, and when either of them was out of the office for whatever reason, the other would find that she missed seeing her colleague there at her desk when she looked up. This was particularly true for Mma Makutsi, for whom Mma Ramotswe was a reassuring presence every bit as significant, every bit as reassuring, as the great rock dome of Kgale Hill on the outskirts of town, or the deep waters of the Limpopo River, just a few hours off to the east, or the sandhills of the Kalahari over to the west. These were all geographical facts, just as Mma Ramotswe herself seemed to be a geographical fact. She was simply there – as predictable and as constant as any of these things. And her voice was as familiar and as loved as the voice of the doves inhabiting the acacia tree behind Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors; indeed, she would not have been surprised had Mma Ramotswe suddenly started to coo, just as those doves did. Mma Makutsi could not imagine Botswana without those doves, and she could not imagine it without Mma Ramotswe; if she were not there, then it would be just any other country; with her it was something special – it was Mma Ramotswe’s place, a place bathed in the warmth of her presence as effectively as the sun blesses the land each morning with its warming rays.