Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

The Good Husband of Zebra Drive

In Alexander McCall Smith’s newest book about Mma Ramotswe, it is a time of transition and unease. Unthinkable things happen. Mma Makutsi quits her job as Mma Ramotswe’s assistant detective, and Charlie, the apprentice, quits to start his own taxi service. Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni feels a restless urge to try out his detecting skills and everything is in turmoil.


And underneath, amazing things happen. When you think differently, there is room for change, and forgiveness.

With Mma Makutsi back in her usual place, the heavy atmosphere that had prevailed that morning lifted. The emotional reunion, as demonstrative and effusive as if Mma Makutsi had been away for months, or even years, had embarrassed the men, who had exchanged glances and then looked away, as if in guilt at an intrusion into essentially female mysteries. But when the ululating from Mma Ramotswe had died down and the tea had been made, everything returned to normal.

“Why did she bother to leave if she was going to be back in five minutes?” asked the younger apprentice.

“It’s because she doesn’t think like anybody else,” said Charlie. “She thinks backwards.”

Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, who overheard this, shook his head. “It’s a sign of maturity to be able to change your mind when you realize that you’re wrong,” he explained. “It’s the same with fixing a car. If you find out that you’re going along the wrong lines then don’t hesitate to stop and correct yourself. If, for example, you’re changing the oil seal at the back of a gearbox, you might try to save time by doing this without taking the gearbox out. But it’s always quicker to take the gearbox out. If you don’t, you end up taking the floor out and anyway, you have to take the top of the gearbox off, and the prop shaft too. So it’s best to stop and admit your mistake before you go any further and damage things.”

Charlie listened to this – it was a long speech for Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni – and then looked away. He wondered if this was a random example siezed upon by Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, or if he knew about the seal he had tried to install in the old rear-wheel-drive Ford. Could he have found out somehow?

In another place, Charlie has just told Mma Ramotswe of his plans to start the No. 1 Ladies Taxi Service:

For a minute or two, nobody spoke. Mma Ramotswe was aware of the sound of Charlie’s breathing, which was shallow, from excitement. We must remember, she thought, what it is like to be young and enthusiastic, to have a plan, a dream. There is always a danger that as we went on in life we forget about that; caution – even fear – replaced optimism and courage. When you were young, like Charlie, you believed that you could do anything, and, in some circumstances at least, you could. . . . .

“I will tell all my friends to use your taxi,” she said. “I am sure you will be very busy.”

And oh yes, in the midst of all this, three mysteries get solved – a case of inventory gone missing, a case of a string of inexplicable hospital deaths, and a case of a husband potentialy gone astray.

GREAT summer reading, deceptively simple. You find yourself mulling over the situations, the responses and the outcomes, and trying out new ways of thinking. Give it a try – you don’t have to read the whole series to enjoy each volume.

This eighth book in the series is available from for a mere $12.70. It makes great summer reading.

June 20, 2007 - Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Books, Botswana, Community, Crime, Cross Cultural, Detective/Mystery, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Generational, Locard Exchange Principal, Marriage, Poetry/Literature, Relationships, Social Issues, Women's Issues

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: