A slow mystery season in Botswana—there’s only one proper case for the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency—leaves its employees free to pursue all manner of adventures on their own.
The official case, as so often, involves no obvious crime. When an amnesiac Indian lady carrying no identification wanders into the home of Mr. Sengupta and his widowed sister, “Miss Rose” Chattopadhyay, they naturally take her in but tell Precious Ramotswe that they’d feel better if they knew who their uninvited tenant was and where she’d come from. Putting aside the strategic plan (“The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency: Challenges Ahead and Options for the Future”) furniture salesman Phuti Radiphuti has developed for the agency, Mma Ramotswe (The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon, 2013, etc.) is able to put an unexpected operative on the case: Charlie, the chronically underachieving apprentice her husband, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, has finally let go from Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors. The episode in which Charlie, rescued from despair by Mma Ramotswe’s offer of a job as an apprentice detective, stakes out the Sengupta home in the hope of following his mysterious visitor provides the comic high point of this gentle tale. It’s not giving too much away to say that things don’t exactly work out as planned for Charlie—or for Mma Ramotswe’s partner Grace Makutsi, whose venture into the hospitality business, The Handsome Man’s DeLuxe Café, runs into sadly predictable problems. If only her husband had drawn up a strategic plan.
Thanks to that sturdy deus ex machina, Orphan Farm matron Mma Potokwane, all’s well that ends well in perhaps the most tranquil and unruffled entry in this renowned series.