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    Review of THE KALAHARI TYPING SCHOOL FOR MEN by Alexander McCall Smith


    Pantheon Books, 2002

    The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency has problems--a new competitor run by a man has opened in town. And with Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni returning from his long bout with depression, there's the problem of how to pay Mma. Makutsi--who has served as assistant detective and also acting manager of Matekoni's garage. Still, although the competitor threatens to steal some of their business, Mma. Ramotswe has some detecting jobs to do--including finding the people a client wronged many years before and whether a husband is cheating on his wife. In the meantime, Mma. Makutsi comes up with a brilliant idea--a typing school for men--men who wouldn't be caught dead in a secretarial college like Mma. Makutsi attended, but who need keyboard skills for their jobs. It's an ideal solution to her money problems and also a convenient way for the single Makutsi to discover a man.

    Author Alexander McCall Smith (see more reviews of novels by Smith) loves Africa, its traditional ways of life, and the ways that its people (at least the people of Botswana) treat one another. His No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, including THE KALAHARI TYPING SCHOOL FOR MEN are practically poetic in their praises of this traditional way of life. Mma. Ramotswe is the protagonist in these stories and the central pillar for tradition. Her detecting and the solutions to her clients problems flow from these African traditions (as interpreted by Smith) and prove heart-warming even in the midst of poverty and the AIDS crisis that has destroyed so much of Africa (AIDS is not mentioned by name in this novel but its impact is clear to see). Whether Smith's view of Africa has anything to do with the real continent is something I won't even attempt to decide, but it is certainly his view and his love for this Africa is obvious and compelling.

    Smith's beautiful writing makes KALAHARI an enjoyable read that can be savored or swallowed in a gulp. The characters of Mma. Makutsi and Mma. Ramotswe are well drawn and interesting. KALAHARI is anything but a thriller, but it makes a wonderful diversion from the everyday.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 6/12/03

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