Alexander McCall Smith. The Handsome Man’s De Luxe Café. New York: Pantheon, 2014. Print. No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.
This recent installment of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series has much fun once again. Precious Ramotswe is hired by a Mr. Sangupta, a local lawyer, to look into the background of an Indian woman who showed up at his house with amnesia. Precious’s “co-director” Grace Makutsi is opening a new restaurant, the book’s titled The Handsome Man’s De Luxe Café.
Precious’s husband J.L.B. Maketoni is forced to fire Charlie, his slacker apprentice mechanic. Out of sympathy, Precious hires Charlie as an apprentice detective. Charlie is as much of a distracted loser as a detective as he was as a mechanic. His story here is quite funny. Like Paddington Bear or many characters on television sitcoms, Charlie may bumble things, but he does contribute something to help solve the mystery.
We all know Grace Makutsi has a fairly strict view of things. How will her off-putting character mix with running a restaurant? Once again, we read about this with some good-natured humor.
The underlying issues requiring the detective agency are truly quite serious. Both the mystery behind the amnesiac and the café chef who refuses to share his family name are connected with serious issues. Domestic violence and illegal immigration affect people and nations around the world.
Through it all, Precious Ramotswe maintains her delightful and upbeat perspective on things. Over the years I have read numerous series with distinctive characters. One way or another I found those characters appealing. As a boy, I wanted to be a Hardy Boy. Partly because of my grandfather’s interest, I admired Sherlock Holmes’ cleverness. I loved the adventures of Mr. Bass and James Bond. I would have voted for Jack Ryan over any presidential candidate since 1985. But Precious Ramotswe is someone you would want to meet (switch to second person deliberate).