This is the 12st book in the No.1 Ladies Detective series, set in Botswana and featuring some of the well-known characters such as Mma Ramotswe, Mma Makutsi and Mr J. L. B. Matekoni. The pace is slow, deliberate and ponderous, however through the clear descriptions provided it was easy to imagine the setting and lifestyle. Neither could I underestimate the simple, but clever way in which the two lady private detectives solved the cases they were working on and handled the everyday dilemmas encountered. The importance of redbush tea and cake also became apparent too! Throughout the novel reference is frequently made by Mma Ramotswe to the celebrated work ‘The Principles of Private Detection’ by Clovis Anderson, which underpins the approach to her work. There are some astute statements such as ‘the eye is lulled into complacency when contemplating things and people we see every day.’
The author carefully intertwines a number of storylines, including how to rehome a baby elephant which Charlie, the rather hapless and headstrong part-time assistant to the detective agency has agreed to take care of for a friend, alongside a couple of ongoing investigations.
I enjoyed the book and although it is fairly light-hearted, it also included a few profound statements which provide an insight into the political and economic climate in the country. It also raised a number of ethical issues and provided the opportunity for characters to question their personal values and those of others.
So – if you’re looking for a relaxing book to curl up with in front of a log fire on a cold winter’s day, this is probably just what you need. It would also I am sure, provide plenty of material for a lively book group discussion and maybe even inspire you to want to visit Botswana!
How to Raise an Elephant by Alexander McCall Smith
Publisher: Little, Brown
Published: September 2020
Review by Hilary Whorrall