Smiles of a Mystery Fan Feb 4, 2009
Tears of the Giraffe, although only the second of Alexander McCall Smith's widely read The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, is by far the best installment to date. It eschews the anecdotal narrative padding and dropped story lines unfortunately found in subsequent volumes, for good old fashioned story telling. It is fun to see the primary characters' personalities (much loved by many readers) already well developed in this early story. And Smith's languorous pacing beautifully reflects the easy rhythms of life in sub-tropical Botswana. His familiarity with the land and its varieties of people and places, is obvious; as is his love for the country as a whole. In Precious Ramotswe, this love is wonderfully expressed through her sympathetic understanding of people. In fact, the warmth and wisdom of Ma Ramotswe makes for rewarding re-reading. While overall Smith's series is character driven, here there is a real mystery to solve. Smith deftly manages to draw the reader into the problem along with Precious. As there are no scattered clues for the reader to pick up, the resolution comes with Ma Ramtswe's discoveries in a most satisfying manner. The situational characters are expertly introduced and developed, without a single wasted scene or dramatic inconsistency. But the real beauty of Tears of the Giraffe, is the emotional heft of the story and its denouement. By the end, the reader has travelled with a good-natured, unpretentious lady of considerable charm who has imparted her understanding of people and love of Africa in a way that will long remain once the book's cover is closed.