This is the latest instalment from Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. To those already familiar with these novels it will need no introduction, while those approaching the series for the first time would be well advised to start with one of the earlier books where the, now familiar, characters are introduced. Similarly, the ‘detective’ element in these stories is relatively minor, so don’t be put off if you don’t normally enjoy crime fiction.

The present book opens with Precious Ramotswe attending a local wedding and musing on the nature of love and friendship. With few cases to solve at the agency, Precious is able to investigate a case for her long-lost friend who finds that her only daughter has turned away from her. Meanwhile, a former mechanic turned charismatic preacher seems to have attracted a following of several local ladies.

Although the books are humorously written, they often provide a gentle look at some broader philosophical issues. This is no exception, looking at the changing roles of men and women in marriage. Although set in Botswana, I feel that the insights are no less appropriate in Europe. As such, this is typical McCall Smith, well written, easily readable, with unobtrusive humour which helps the story. Those who normally enjoy McCall Smith’s books will enjoy this, but with nineteen previous books in the series some of the material does seem rather familiar. In summary, it’s very much in character for Mma Ramotswe and the author, but nevertheless, it is not the best instalment in the series.

Nicholas Cutler 4/3

To the and of Long Lost Friends by Alexander McCall Smith
Little, Brown 9781408711101 hbk Sep 2019