Ooooooohhhh what a great read. Reading the books about the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is sure to leave you all warm and fuzzy inside. They are filled with the same fundamental belief in human goodness as, for example, Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael novels - and it's just glorious.
However, at times I've wondered if McCall Smith's descriptions of Africa don't border on exotism, exotism of that modern, "nice" kind, where we long for the (perceived) simpler and friendlier life of some Other Culture, and become unreasonably disappointed when we see that the Other Culture also has problems. But I've decided that's it's more a case of homesickness. He loves Botswana deeply, and misses it. That's obvious. When I sometimes think he's portraying his characters as almost naive and simplistic (usually when we're "inside their heads", reading what they're thinking) - he might turn around and show them doing something that turns that notion of naivety on its head. And several times we get snippets of personal history from different people, snippets that don't shy away from pain and sorrow, but neither do they wallow in it. These are books I want to own. These are books to reread over and over, for their sweetness.
The only way to decide if it's exotism or style I suppose is to read all of McCall Smith's other books. Oh, such hardship. Woe me indeed. (My husband just told me to go and buy the books instead of waiting for them to turn up in the library, so hey! Carte blanche to shop!)
In Tears of the Giraffe Mma Ramotswe and Mr. J.L.B. Maketoni make progress in their engagement, including adding to their family. Their relationship is so adorable! Awwww. Mma Ramotswe solves the mystery of the American boy who went missing in the Kalahari ten years before, and her secretary becomes an assistant detective and solves the problem with the butcher's unfaithful wife.
Alexander McCall Smith has a website, I discovered! http://www.randomhouse.com/features/mccallsmith/
Section on The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: http://www.randomhouse.com/features/mccallsmith/no1.html
With the cutest Precious Ramotswe agony aunt column: http://www.randomhouse.com/features/mccallsmith/ask.html