There was always a time for the breaking of difficult news, and one had to wait for one’s moment.  Men usually let their defences down now and then, and the art of being a successful woman, and beating men at their own game, was to wait your moment.

You would think that three books into a series that has the same set-up and style, the same basic plotlines with different details – you’d get bored of reading an author’s works. However, McCall Smith is one of the lucky few that can manage to keep your attention throughout each selection in his series and make it enjoyable, to boot. This series is a lovely, simple series – focusing on one major mystery per book with several other small conundrums strewn throughout the story.

What gives you the right to say that you know better than your ancestors?  Morality is for everybody, and this means that the views of more than one person are needed to create it.  That was what made the modern morality, with its emphasis on individuals and the working out of an individual position, so weak.  If you gave people the chance to work out their morality, then they would work out the version which was easiest for them and which allowed them to do what suited them for as much of the time as possible.  That, in Mma Ramotswe’s view, was simple selfishness, whatever grand name one gave to it.
In this book, Precious Ramotswe is still heading up the No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency in Botswana. She has promoted Mma Makutsi to Assistant Detective, but with the lack of cases, Mma Ramotswe is worried about the viability of her business. Things seem a little tenuous until Mma Ramotswe decides to merge her business with her fiance’s auto repair business – Mr J.L.B. Matekoni.

Unfortunately, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni is having troubles of his own, which Mma Ramotswe must now focus on fixing. Add to all this, a very rude Government man who believes his brother is being poisoned, some not so eligible contestants in the Botswana Pageant for Beauty and Integrity, and two very lazy apprentice mechanics. Things may get a little stressful for Mma Ramotswe, but she always knows how to handle such circumstances in the traditional graceful Botswana way.

It was a good thing to be an African.  There were terrible things that happened in Africa, things that brought shame and despair when one thought about them, but that was not all there was in Africa.  However great the suffering of the people of Africa, however harrowing the cruelty and chaos brought about by soldiers – small boys with guns, really – there was still so much in Africa from which one could take real pride.  There was the kindness, for example, and the ability to smile, and the art and the music.

When the second book in this series felt a little stale, I got a bit worried that the quality of the following novels might falter. However, McCall Smith shines as always. This series installment’s mystery is plenty intriguing – with another strange occurrence thrown in that may travel from this book to the next: concerning a little boy who seems to have been raised by lions. We are given a lovely tribute to the country of Botswana by several of the characters, and it is a very different picture of Africa than what we are given in many other books from or about the area. These characters take vast pride in their country, instead of disgust for corrupted politicians, or anger and/or grief over terrible wars or plagues. Precious Ramotswe is the ideal spokesperson for the beauty and majesty of Botswana and Africa.

“Morality for Beautiful Girls” was written by Alexander McCall Smith and published in 2001.

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