Tuesday, January 15, 2013

No. 1 Connection to Indiana

I had to chuckle when I read the latest in Alexander McCall Smith’s popular and thoroughly delightful series of gentle mysteries featuring the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency in Botswana. Not only did the novel’s various little problems, twists, and turns offer the usual good fun but there also was an Indiana connection of a surprising and unusual sort.

Like the earlier novels, this 2012 one, titled The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection, featured the familiar cast of characters: founder and principal detective at the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, the redoubtable Precious Ramotswe; her assistant—oops, associate—Grace Makutsi; Mma Ramotswe’s husband and proprietor of the Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors garage, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni; Mma Makutsi’s new husband and proprietor of the Double Comfort Furniture Store, Mr. Phuti Radiphuti; and others well known to readers of the series. But there was a new character—and a special one at that.

Since the beginning Mma Ramotswe and her associate have been guided in their efforts at detection by a book titled The Principles of Private Detection, which is full of pity sayings and sound advice. Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi can quote sections of the book verbatim with easy familiarity. Now, who should appear in Tlokweng Road but the author himself, a modest, unassuming man, Clovis Andersen. Needless to say, Andersen is treated like a visiting dignitary, though he is anything but; and Mma Makutsi is particularly star-struck.

Andersen, it transpires, is from Muncie, Indiana, and even went to college in Bloomington. Were I to suspend my disbelief, I might well wonder where the fictional student Andersen walked and lived. Did he frequent the same coffee shops where I am prone to read mysteries over an afternoon cup of brew? For those who have not yet read this latest offering in the popular series, I won’t say more about Clovis Andersen, as to do so might spoil the fun. And this book is fun, as is the entire series.