You don’t need a flight reservation. You don’t need your passport. You don’t need to pack your valise. Make yourself a pot of tea. A pot of red tea. Make it properly. Tea leaves added to a warm teapot. Water that has just come to the boil. Let it steep about five minutes. Perhaps add a little honey to your cup. Now relax and enjoy armchair travel.
Several years ago I read a slim book about an unusual woman who became the first lady private detective in Botswana. I am always looking for well-written detective novels. I collect them like pearls, for like pearls a well-written detective novel is something to treasure. This slim book. The NO. 1 LADIES’ DETECTIVE AGENCY, by Alexander McCall Smith, and all the delightful books that followed, are not pearls, they are Botswana Diamonds. They are not exactly detective novels, more like mysteries that happen in life.
Then I discovered another Botswana Diamond. I found in the DVD section of our Ladner Library a TV series made from the novels. It had appeared on HBO. Was it possible to create the magic of the books? I dared to hope and dream. I was not disappointed. The series captured all and more of every nuance, every bit of the charm and sensitivity, and all the understated humour of the books.
Each night The Good Husband and I traveled to Botswana, and each night reluctantly returned to the West Coast and the rain forests. Last night was the final program. I suggested we could watch it again from the beginning. You always miss things first time around. “We’ll see”, said the good husband, as he poured himself a cup of bush tea and clicked on travel information to Botswana. In these difficult times it is nice to dream.
These are the actors who created the poetry we watched evening after evening.
I would like you to meet Mma Ramotswe, Precious Ramotswe, the first lady detective in Botswana. (Jill Scott)
The very prim and proper Mma Makutsi, Grace Makutsi, assistant private detective. (Anika Noni Rose)
Together Precious Ramotswe and Grace Makutsi solve mysteries with style, grace and humour.
Mr. JLB Matekoni, a mechanic magician and all around renaissance man. (Lucian Msamati)
BK, owner of the Last Chance Salon, hairdresser extraordinaire and sometime assistant to the lady detectives.(Desmond Dube)
Back to the books. It is important you realize that The Ladies’ No. One Detective Agency is NOT simply detective fiction . It’s a novel that takes you to Botswana, introduces you to characters you would want in your life, and a country you do not want to leave.
To my great joy Alexander McCall Smith continued to write many more books, and through the years I continued to travel to Botswana. I’ve made many cups of bush tea and read my way through the lives of people whom I would feel honoured to know.
Precious Ramotswe, the first lady private detective in Botswana. Strong, intelligent, compassionate Precious.
Grace Makutsi, graduating with a 97% average from secretarial college, refreshingly prim and proper.
Mr. JLB Matekoni, a renaissance man, a mechanic of magic abilities with motors and cars.
JB, flamboyant hairdresser and owner of the Last Chance Salon, steadfast friend and sometimes accomplice to the lady detectives.
This as not just a series of detective novels. Don’t presume it is simply “light reading”. It is more than the sum of it’s parts. It is about life with dignity and love. There’s understated humour. A great deal of wisdom. Some unpleasant facets of life. Most important the books contain all that is good, positive, respectful and honourable about Botswana.
How can you not love books with titles like…
Tears of the Giraffe,
Morality for Girls
The Kalachari Typing School for Men
The Cupboard Full of Life
In the Company of Cheerful Ladies
Blue Shoes and Happiness
The Good Husband of Zebra Drive
The Miracle at Speedy Motors
Tea Time for the Traditionally Built
The Double Comfort Safari Club
I’ve just made myself a cup of bush tea and now I am reading another book in this rare and wonderfully gentle series about the first lady detective in Botswana, The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party. I can’t wait to see if Grace Makutsi finds true love.
Oh yes, my fellow tea lovers. You must drink bush tea. Find it under the name Rooibos or Red Tea in any good tea shop.