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Tea Time for the Traditionally Built

Africa’s No. 1 female detective probes the mysteries of the human heart.

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What makes a good mystery? If you’re Alexander McCall Smith, author of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, it’s not dark alleyways and danger – at least, not in his most recent title, Tea Time for the Traditionally Built.

That’s not to say that the traditional trappings of suspense, mistaken identity, and false leads don’t make their appearances. Like the other novels in the series, Smith’s latest offering featuring Precious Ramotswe remains firmly situated in the company of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple mysteries.  (Though the body count is significantly lower.) But the real mystery in this story is the enigma of human nature – and the secrets that lurk in the hidden corners of the human heart.

“Tea Time for the Traditionally Built” is actually one of the gentlest of Smith’s stories. There are no witch doctors or blackmail plots. No one is being poisoned.

But don’t think that means that Botswana’s No. 1 female detective is getting off easy. Mma Ramotswe faces her most difficult cases to date in the 10th installment in the series.

First, there’s the proprietor of a local soccer team, who wants Mma Ramotswe to find the culprit behind his team’s inexplicable losing streak. And in a mystery closer to Mma Ramotswe’s own heart, her faithful friend, the iconic tiny white van, has developed some rather alarming symptoms.

The common thread between these cases, of course, is the unknown and often perplexing world of men and men’s preoccupations. Preoccupations like chasing a ball up and down a field, for example, or the inner workings of complex machinery.


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