Sunday, November 24, 2013

Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon

The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon / Alexander McCall Smith
Toronto: Random House Canada, c2013.
242 p.

I'm a big fan of McCall Smith -- I enjoy each of his series for different reasons, and am always glad to revisit the places he's created. This book is the latest in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series set in Botswana, and I was happy to see all my favourite characters back in action.

In this adventure, Mma  Precious Ramotswe must deal with some questionable investigations on her own... Mma Grace Makutski is on leave, on maternity leave, actually, and we get some lovely bits from this situation. Mma Ramotswe comes to realize how much she misses Grace's very presence, and what their friendship has come to mean. We see Precious in a vulnerable moment, an uncommon occurrence, as she considers the future of the minimally profitable No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency.

The cases that must be solved are, as usual, quite sedate - questions of mistaken identity, of jealousy and anonymous notes. The resolutions, when they come, are not quite as sedate. The main case has rather a shocking conclusion for this series, more gritty than usual. I can tell you I did not guess it ahead of time. And Mma Ramotswe has to accept that she may not always be completely right in her conclusions, too.

Still, there is the sense of thoughtful consideration of life that comes through in each of the books in this series, and a mild humour as well. Grace seems more settled with her husband Phuti Radiphuti and their new son Itumelang, and she is eager to get back to work. I've always been very fond of the acerbic Grace, with her 97%, her large eyeglasses, and her talking shoes. I am very glad that she seems to be getting what she wants from life, finally, after a difficult start. I've enjoyed her trajectory through these books, and there was a nice moment between she and Mma Ramotswe at the end when they acknowledge the strength of their friendship.

Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni has his own adventure in this book as well, attending a class at the university on becoming a modern husband. He is encouraged by Mma Potokwane of the Orphan Farm to try to be more helpful to Mma Ramotswe in every way, so he gives this class a try, very briefly, before deciding that things are fine as they are. It does seem like McCall Smith is mildly poking fun at people who wish to bring attention to gender role expectations, but that is something that crops up now and again in McCall Smith's books and it's not irritating enough to stop me reading them.

This was a rather melancholic entry into this series, really focusing quite a bit on ideas of friendship, marriage, parenthood, love, secrets and so forth, and only minimally on any truly mysterious elements. But I enjoyed this look at Mma Ramotswe on her own for a while, and know that some changes have been set going that need to be followed up in the next book... should be interesting as always!

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