The Double Comfort Safari Club by Alexander McCall Smith (Mystery Novel, 2010).
The eleventh in the series about The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, this book is a charming and delightfully lighthearted kind of/sort of mystery novel. This time out, philosophical detective Precious Ramotswe and her often hesitant but well-intentioned assistant find a road-trip north, to the Botswana’s lush Okavango Delta a welcome distraction from more personal and difficult matters they face back home.
A lawyer has hired the agency to identify a nature guide and inform him he is due an inheritance from an American woman’s will. The problem: the late eco-tourist couldn’t remember the guide’s name or even which of the several safari camps there that she visited, four years previously. A mild case of mistaken identity briefly complicates things, and the two town-dwelling sleuths experience perhaps more of the Africa’s remaining wildlife than they wished, but as always the case is resolved in pleasing fashion.
More important, it gives both women a needed break from dealing with a predatory female they’ve dealt with before, a friend (also seen in previous series books) whose marriage is threatened by infidelity and a debilitating accident to assistant detective Makutsi’s fiance that his domineering Aunt tries to use to sabotage the relationship.
Of course Precious will put things right at the end, employing her usual patience, kindness, folksy wisdom and quietly insightful courage. Scheming Voilet will be foiled, yet again; Mma Mateleke will be required to face-up to her mistakes; and Makutsi will eventually stand-up to the injured Phuti’s intimidating Aunt. Other series regulars, including Ramotswe’s loving husband/ace auto mechanic Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni and that stern defender of orphans and the downtrodden, Mma Potokwane, all play their parts. Much tea (Precious’s beloved red bush variety and otherwise) is drunk and the culture of her African homeland (which the author loves as much as she does) provides both an exotic and comforting background.
Anyone in the market for gentle, character-based fiction with a bit of often playful mystery and a dash of humor should check out this entire series. Just remember: in Botswana “Mma” is a title of respect for any adult woman and everybody tends to be very polite (even the very few nasty folks).