McCall Smith, Alexander: In the Company of Cheerful Ladies
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Alexander McCall Smith's Botswana is rather like Andy Griffith's Mayberry, a world that may never have existed in fact, where people are generally decent and where, despite its problems, life is good -- particularly if one is lucky enough to be acquainted with Precious Ramotswe of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. It's a world I'm sorry to leave behind whenever I finish one of the books in McCall Smith's series. In the Company of Cheerful Ladies, the 6th installment in the series, finds Mma Ramotswe threatened by an unexpected source, for a wholly surprising reason. Uncharacteristically, it's a problem she cannot readily deal with, and long-time readers may well feel the urge to rise up in her defense, so real a character is she. This book also introduces two welcome additions to McCall Smith's cast, Rra Polopetsi, whose misfortunes are ostensibly increased when Mma Ramostwe nearly runs him down in her tiny white van, and Phuti Radiphuti, the manager of a furniture store who stumbles into the life of Mma Ramotswe's assistant, Grace Makutsi. The book, like others in the series, is sweet and simple and life-affirming. In a word, charming.