�The Good Husband of Zebra Drive��satisfies taste for sweet, gentle fiction

BY TERRY MATHEWS | News-Telegram Arts Editor

Apr. 8, 2007 - Today’s publishing world is replete with writers who produce violent crime books and chill-a-minute thrillers. These books are usually driven by bleak plot lines and it seems that blood drips off every other page. The crooks and the evil ones are usually caught in the end, but it’s hard to take anything positive away from the reading experience.

The Good Husband of Zebra Drive
Alexander McCall Smith
224 pp. Pantheon. $21.95.

While a good adrenaline rush gets the blood pumping, it’s always nice to slow down with a book that focuses on real people living real lives. It’s nice to have a heroine without titan tresses and emerald eyes, and it’s a pleasant break to read about a hero who doesn’t appear to be the spawn of a Greek god. 

With the release of his eighth book in the “No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency” series, Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith proves why he should be at the top of everyone’s must-read list. 

As with previous books in the series, “The Good Husband of Zebra Drive” gives readers a glimpse into the life of a “traditionally built” African woman named Precious Ramotswe, who is the sole proprietor of a detective agency in Gaborone, Botswana. 

Mma Ramotswe’s office is located adjacent to Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, a garage owned by her husband, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni. He’s a good mechanic, a kind employer and the devoted husband of the title.

Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni has been asked by a rich client to find out if her husband is straying from his marriage vows. While Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni is eager to accept the assignment, he is troubled about how to tell his wife he wants to step into her realm.

Miss Grace Makutsi, Mma Ramotswe’s young assistant provides color and more than her share of drama to this volume. 

Miss Makutsi is fretful and on edge.

She’s worried about her wedding date to Phuti Radiphuti, owner of the highly successful Double Comfort Furniture Store. 

Miss Makutsi is concerned about her professional future as well. She’s been working for Mma Ramotswe for some time without a promotion. She thinks she should be doing better. After all, she is a 97-percent graduate of the Botswana Secretarial College.

Miss Makutsi stirs the pot when she up and leaves the agency one day, an act that both stuns and wounds Mma Ramotswe. 

Providing comic relief this time around is Charlie, the oldest apprentice at Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors. The naïve Charlie is determined to have things his way. His brief foray into the real world provides some funny and very poignant moments. 

As with other books in the series, Mma Ramotswe’s agency takes on some cases, but the mysteries are somewhat inconsequential.  What keeps readers coming back to Mma Ramotswe’s world are the main characters and their rich, human and sometimes imperfect personal relationships.

Spending time with in the world McCall Smith has created is like happening upon an oasis after a long trek through a desert of fast-food fiction. 

Your hunger for good stories, well told, will be sated and you’ll look forward to future visits with Mma Ramotswe and Company. 

Enjoy!

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