The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon – Review

Alexander McCall Smith. The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon. New York: Pantheon, 2013. Print.

I think I have fallen in love with Precious Ramotswe. The owner of the No. 1 Detective Agency has such a sweet spirit. She is a very different detective. She usually solves her mysteries in a clever and wise manner. She understands that she is part of something bigger—the society of Gaborone, the tradition of Botswana, the human race, the church of God. And she does it with a smile and a bit of joy.

Mma Ramotswe is on her own in this installment as her assistant Grace Makutsi Radiphuti is taking maternity leave. She gives birth to a son, Itumelang Clovis Radiphuti. Anyone who has read any of these novels understands the child is named for Clovis Anderson, the author of Principles of Private Detection, the agency’s handbook/bible.

The agency is presented with two cases in this volume. One, high-powered lawyer Mma Sheba Kutso is supposed to be executing a will, but she is not sure if the young man named in the will is the same person as the man nearby claiming to be the nephew of the deceased. She would like Precious to find out the truth of the matter. When Mma Ramotswe discovers who benefits the most if the alleged nephew proves to be an impostor, the case takes an unexpected turn.

Case number two concerns the proprietor of the beauty salon in the title. Someone has been spreading rumors that women have been disfigured for life from the caustic treatments at the salon. Someone is even distributing flyers warning people to stay away from the place. And Mma Soleti, the proprietress of the salon, received in the mail a feather from a Ground Hornbill—an ugly bird of bad omen.

The Ground Hornbill
The Ground Hornbill - Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

There is also the problem of Phuti Radiphuti’s aunt. Both Indian and Botswanan tradition call for a female relative to assist a mother at her home for three to six months until the baby can go out. The problem is that the aunt is a misanthrope and makes everyone’s life miserable. She does end up leaving the Radiphutis’ new home much sooner than she had planned. The little episode suggests that even hostile nature has its place in the scheme of things—and that all things can work together for the good.

Once again, Smith shares an easygoing and delightful mystery with most appealing characters. My previous impression of Botswana had been the Kalahari Desert and foraging “Bushmen.” But Mr. Smith makes it sound like a wonderful place to visit, if not settle down in.

For what it is worth, a close family member spent two weeks in South Africa visiting a friend who was working there at the time. They spent a day in Botswana. My relative said that the people there were quite friendly and it felt like a much safer place than its southern neighbor.

“In the mouths of two or three witnesses every word be established.” (Matthew 18:16 KJV, cf. II Corinthians 13:1, Deuteronomy 19:15)

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