Every now and again I treat myself and read one of the book's in Alexander McCall Smith's Botswana series. They are unfailingly good to pass the day with--sad, at times, but sweet and ultimately life-affirming. In The Good Husband of Zebra Drive, several of McCall Smith's principals attempt something different with their lives--I'll not give any of that away. Their personal stories are wrapped around the novel's pair of mysteries, paying work for the No. 1 Ladies team, investigations into a series of mysterious deaths at the Mochudi hospital and an errant husband's extra-curricular activities.
It's hard to explain to someone who's not read the Botswana books what it is that makes them special. They are in a way more than mere novels. They somehow embody a humanity, the ethos of the author, and one falls under his spell for a time while reading and views the world with different, better eyes. After Fred Rogers (a.k.a. Mr. Rogers) died, one started hearing all these wonderful stories about what a fine man he was, and how he had a tremendous impact on the people he met. The world of Mr. Rogers, one senses, was a kinder one than that which we inhabit, because he made it so. I have a feeling, from reading his No. 1 Ladies books as well as his Facebook posts, that Alexander McCall Smith is a similarly unusual person, that he makes the world he inhabits a kinder place. That all sounds a bit much, I know. Anyway, the enjoyment to be gotten from his series goes far beyond liking the stories or the mysteries or the author's leisurely prose. It's about the characters and, more, the time we get to spend looking at the world through McCall Smith's eyes.