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February 9, 2009 |

By Dustin Rowles | Books | February 9, 2009 |

I had been meaning to read this series since it came out. I had a slew of older women customers who would come into Barnes and Noble looking for a good read, and I was constantly on the look out for something for them. If they dug violence and sex, I would send them to Harlen Coben or P.J. Tracy, for some fun stuff. It’s the pub burger to Patterson’s McDoubles. But I could never find anything that wasn’t too racy.

Well, here it is. It’s a charming mystery, that I can only describe as quaint. Mma Precious Ramotswe is a fat, happy woman running a detective agency in Botswana. I have no idea how accurate the descriptions of Africa are, but it’s nice to read something that’s not about slavery, political upheavals, or kidnapping. It almost reads like a series of small events in her day rather than one uniform book with one mystery. It weaves back and forth nicely between her personal affairs and the cases she’s chooses to undertake. There’s no swearing or brutal violence. Everything can’t be all machete mauling and baby-making, Julie.

As I said, the easiest way to describe it is quaint. It reminds me of the old women who sell quilts at the flea market. Sure, she might be the grandmother of a pederast who turned her basement into The Last Chuck E. Cheese On The Left. Sure, she might be using the money to fund abortion clinic bombings. Sure, she might be secretly weaving Levitticus passages in knit and perl morse code in her craft projects. But, in the here and now, she’s a sweet old lady selling handmade goods and services. That’s what this novel is like. There are moments where the old-fashioned attitudes of female servitude and the scenes involving Precious’s husband Note that are horrifying, but delivered in the same sweet cadence that Smith uses when describing her making bush tea. It’s jarring but fascinating.

This is the next series getting televisionized by HBO, and having read the first novel, I’m kind of a little excited about it. Jill Scott is supposed to play Precious, and frankly she should be the go-to girl for casting zaftig black women. She’s been strong in just about every project she’s been in (which has been limited, so I’m anxious to see if she can carry a lead role), plus, she’s just a pleasant person.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. Details are here and the growing number of participants and their blogs are here.

Cannonball Read / Brian Prisco

Books | February 9, 2009 |

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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