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altheaann

altheaann

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A Creature of Moonlight
Rebecca Hahn
Saffron And Brimstone: Strange Stories
Elizabeth Hand
Captain Vorpatril's Alliance
Lois McMaster Bujold
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Kseniya Melnik
Blue Shoes and Happiness - Alexander McCall Smith After reading the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency a couple of years ago, I accumulated a few of these, and went through 6 in less than a month. They're very quick reads - I read 2 and part-of-a-third in one day.

They're very entertaining, charming, and compulsively readable. Although marketed as mysteries; they're not, really. Rather they follow Mma Ramotswe and those around her through their daily lives - it's almost besides-the-point that the business she runs is a detective agency. The stories are suffused with McCall-Smith's obvious sincere love of Africa (where he grew up), and the reader feels that a genuine window has opened up into the lives and mindsets of ordinary Africans. I don't agree with many aspects of Precious Ramotswe's view on the world, and I probably wouldn't get along with her in real life - but these books made me feel like I might understand people like her more than before.

However... there's also a weird aspect to the books. They're so relentlessly cozy. It's not that McCall-Smith ignores the poverty, the devastation of AIDS, the lack of education, etc... these things are acknowledged, but then almost swept to the side. On the one hand, it's a celebration of the spirit of the people of Botswana and their love of their homeland... but on the other hand, it sometimes feels like a minimization of these things. It's not just larger social issues: there's domestic abuse, adultery, etc... all the normal foibles of humanity (although all reference to sex of any kind are totally non-existent)- but all the unpleasant things somehow get almost drowned out in the cozy, feel-good atmosphere of the books. Maybe it's just that I usually read darker, grittier material [especially in mysteries {McCall-Smith is no Stieg Larsson!}] but it felt a bit strange to me. I can't decide if it's a detriment or a positive asset to the books.

In 'Blue Shoes and Happiness' Mma Ramotswe's beloved van is stolen. Luckily, her new (as of last book) employee, Mr. Polopetsi, comes to the (ingenious) rescue. However, his attempts to solve and remedy the mystery of why a whole village seems frightened and worried do not go so well. Mma Makutsi has a bit of a misunderstanding with her fiance, and the detective agency handles a case of blackmail, and helps a nurse who is concerned about a doctor's possible wrongdoing, gratis. Mma Makutsi also insists on buying a pair of fancy blue shoes, even though they clearly do not fit.