MysteryPeople Review: THE WOMAN WHO WALKED IN SUNSHINE by Alexander McCall Smith

  • woman who walked in sunshineReviewed by Meike Alana

I n The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine, Alexander McCall Smith’s latest installment of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series (his 16th!),  the esteemed Mma. Precious Ramotswe has to deal with perhaps her most significant challenge to date—a vacation.

It’s the middle of a hot summer and business is slow at the agency, so Mma. Makutsi has persuaded Mma. Ramotswe that it is time for her to take a well-deserved holiday.  Precious has misgivings—it’s difficult for any business owner to step away and leave someone else in charge.  And it does seem as if Mma. Makutsi is a little too eager for Mma. Ramotswe to take a break—is this a grab for power?  Mma. Makutsi has had a tendency to speak rashly and be rather too blunt in the past—will she be capable of exercising the necessary tact to handle any new cases that come in?  Despite her initial reluctance, Mma. Ramotswe becomes convinced that it’s time to give her employees the opportunity to manage the agency and she agrees to take a week off.

Her week of peaceful rest and relaxation doesn’t last long, however. On her first day off she meets a young hooligan named Samuel (and the beloved little white van is the worse off as a result).  As she learns more about Samuel’s situation, Mma. Ramotswe feels compelled to help him find a way out of his difficult situation.  Consumption of red bush tea and fruit cake ensue.

Precious Ramotswe has to deal with perhaps her most significant challenge to date—a vacation.

Then she is approached by Mr. Polopetsi, who has been working part-time at the agency.  It seems that Mma. Makutsi has taken on a new and rather complicated case; claiming that she is too busy to handle it, she insists that Mr. Polopetsi must be the one to solve the case.  Feeling out of his depth, he enlists the assistance of Mma. Ramotswe—and she agrees to help him, without letting Mma. Makutsi know.  As the details of the case emerge, we eventually learn that all is not as it seems and we don’t always know exactly whom we can trust.

The title comes from Precious’ musings about the love she shares with Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni—that she basks in his love as does a woman who walks in sunshine.  As with the later installments in philosopher McCall Smith’s Botswana series, the plot is secondary to the novel.  The central themes involve the love we share with those closest to us, the trust we must place in them, and the delicate balance between the two.  And, as always, there are some generous helpings of McCall Smith’s trademark humor—one memorable scene has Mma Ramotswe using her traditional build (of which she is quite proud) to defend herself; there is also a showdown between our heroines and their arch nemesis Violet Sephotho.

You can find copies of The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

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