qatsi (qatsi) wrote,


Book Reviews: The Kalahari Typing School for Men, and The Full Cupboard of Life, by Alexander McCall Smith
Poirot seems a perfectly reasonable name for a TV series; Marple wouldn't work for Joan Hickson but with its noughties twists you can get away with it for Geraldine McEwen; but you could never call a series based on Alexander McCall Smith's novels Ramotswe. It would be so undignified, not at all conformant to the old Botswana ways.

Detection takes a bit of a back seat in these books. In The Kalahari Typing School for Men, Mma Makutsi is looking to boost her income and Mma Ramotswe is looking to find her a man. Both these things happen, though of course it's not quite as straightforward as that. There is competition in the form of Cephas Buthelezi of the Satisfaction Guaranteed Detective Agency; one of Mr J L B Matekoni's apprentices discovers God; and bad deeds of the past are settled. It may be supposed to be contemporary Botswana, but in many ways the characters are from a Golden Age just as much as Christie's: villains who come quietly, people with skeletons in closets, honest folk. Perhaps the main difference is that Mma Ramotswe is always pragmatic, whereas Christie's characters can never avoid being judgemental on personal morals: there aren't net curtains to twitch, not at the windows at any rate. Of course there is "the sickness", never referred to by name, but then again, a lot of the dialogue is about "this one" or "that one", names don't seem to be important so long as one knows what is being talked about.

The Full Cupboard of Life bears the strapline "Winner of the Saga Award for Wit", which doesn't entirely strike me as a selling point. I found this a bit more difficult to get into, as there is a rather absurd plot line laid in the starting chapters. Not much happens; Mma Ramotswe is once again pressed into service in discovering the virtues, or otherwise, of men; and somehow, it all ends happily. The publishers saw fit to insert the initial chapter of The Sunday Philosophy Club at the end of my copy; I'm not sure they're any better at cross-selling than Amazon's recommendations. I think Edinburgh may already have enough detectives; but Mma Ramotswe is Botswana's finest, and only.
Tags: books
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