Tears of the Giraffe (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series #2)

Tears of the Giraffe (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series #2)

by Alexander McCall Smith

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Overview

Fans around the world adore the bestselling No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series and its proprietor, Precious Ramotswe, Botswana’s premier lady detective. In this charming series, Mma  Ramotswe—with help from her loyal associate, Grace Makutsi—navigates her cases and her personal life with wisdom, good humor, and the occasional cup of tea.
 
Precious Ramotswe is the eminently sensible and cunning proprietor of the only ladies’ detective agency in Botswana. In Tears of the Giraffe she tracks a wayward wife, uncovers an unscrupulous maid, and searches for an American man who disappeared into the plains many years ago. In the midst of resolving uncertainties, pondering her impending marriage to a good, kind man, Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni, and the promotion of her talented secretary (a graduate of the Botswana Secretarial College, with a mark of 97 per cent), she also finds her family suddenly and unexpectedly increased by two.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400077670
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/16/2003
Series: No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series , #2
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 78,064
File size: 737 KB

About the Author

Alexander McCall Smith is professor of medical law at the University of Edinburgh. He was born in what is not called Zimbabwe and taught law at the University of Botswana. He is the author of over fifty books, uncluding specialist titles such as Forensic Aspects of Sleep and The Criminal Law of Botswana, children's books such as The Perfect Hamburger, and a collection of stories, Portugese Irregular Verbs. The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency received two Booker Judges' Special Recommendations.

Hometown:

Edinburgh, Scotland

Date of Birth:

August 24, 1948

Place of Birth:

Zimbabwe

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

Mr J.L.B. Matekoni's House

Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, proprietor of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, found it difficult to believe that Mma Ramotswe, the accomplished founder of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, had agreed to marry him. It was at the second time of asking; the first posing of the question, which had required immense courage on his part, had brought forth a refusal--gentle, and regretful--but a refusal nonetheless. After that, he had assumed that Mma Ramotswe would never remarry; that her brief and disastrous marriage to Note Mokoti, trumpeter and jazz aficionado, had persuaded her that marriage was nothing but a recipe for sorrow and suffering. After all, she was an independent-minded woman, with a business to run, and a comfortable house of her own in Zebra Drive. Why, he wondered, should a woman like that take on a man, when a man could prove to be difficult to manage once vows were exchanged and he had settled himself in her house? No, if he were in Mma Ramotswe's shoes, then he might well decline an offer of marriage, even from somebody as eminently reasonable and respectable as himself.

But then, on that noumenal evening, sitting with him on her verandah after he had spent the afternoon fixing her tiny white van, she had said yes. And she had given this answer in such a simple, unambiguously kind way, that he had been confirmed in his belief that she was one of the very best women in Botswana. That evening, when he returned home to his house near the old Defence Force Club, he had reflected on the enormity of his good fortune. Here he was, in his mid-forties, a man who had until that point been unable to find a suitable wife, now blessed with the hand of the one woman whom he admired more than any other. Such remarkable good fortune was almost inconceivable, and he wondered whether he would suddenly wake up from the delicious dream into which he seemed to have wandered.

Yet it was true. The next morning, when he turned on his bedside radio to hear the familiar sound of cattle bells with which Radio Botswana prefaced its morning broadcast, he realised that it had indeed happened and that unless she had changed her mind overnight, he was a man engaged to be married.

He looked at his watch. It was six o'clock, and the first light of the day was on the thorn tree outside his bedroom window. Smoke from morning fires, the fine wood smoke that sharpened the appetite, would soon be in the air, and he would hear the sound of people on the paths that criss-crossed the bush near his house; shouts of children on their way to school; men going sleepy-eyed to their work in the town; women calling out to one another; Africa waking up and starting the day. People arose early, but it would be best to wait an hour or so before he telephoned Mma Ramotswe, which would give her time to get up and make her morning cup of bush tea. Once she had done that, he knew that she liked to sit outside for half an hour or so and watch the birds on her patch of grass. There were hoopoes, with their black and white stripes, pecking at insects like little mechanical toys, and the strutting ring-neck doves, engaged in their constant wooing. Mma Ramotswe liked birds, and perhaps, if she were interested, he could build her an aviary. They could breed doves, maybe, or even, as some people did, something bigger, such as buzzards, though what they would do with buzzards once they had bred them was not clear. They ate snakes, of course, and that would be useful, but a dog was just as good a means of keeping snakes out of the yard.

When he was a boy out at Molepolole, Mr J.L.B. Matekoni had owned a dog which had established itself as a legendary snake-catcher. It was a thin brown animal, with one or two white patches, and a broken tail. He had found it, abandoned and half-starved, at the edge of the village, and had taken it home to live with him at his grandmother's house. She had been unwilling to waste food on an animal that had no apparent function, but he had won her round and the dog had stayed. Within a few weeks it had proved its usefulness, killing three snakes in the yard and one in a neighbour's melon patch. From then on, its reputation was assured, and if anybody was having trouble with snakes they would ask Mr J.L.B. Matekoni to bring his dog round to deal with the problem.

The dog was preternaturally quick. Snakes, when they saw it coming, seemed to know that they were in mortal danger. The dog, hair bristling and eyes bright with excitement, would move towards the snake with a curious gait, as if it were standing on the tips of its claws. Then, when it was within a few feet of its quarry, it would utter a low growl, which the snake would sense as a vibration in the ground. Momentarily confused, the snake would usually begin to slide away, and it was at this point that the dog would launch itself forward and nip the snake neatly behind the head. This broke its back, and the struggle was over.

Mr J.L.B. Matekoni knew that such dogs never reached old age. If they survived to the age of seven or eight, their reactions began to slow and the odds shifted slowly in favour of the snake. Mr J.L.B. Matekoni's dog eventually fell victim to a banded cobra, and died within minutes of the bite. There was no dog who could replace him, but now . . . Well, this was just another possibility that opened up. They could buy a dog and choose its name together. Indeed, he would suggest that she choose both the dog and the name, as he was keen that Mma Ramotswe should not feel that he was trying to take all the decisions. In fact, he would be happy to take as few decisions as possible. She was a very competent woman, and he had complete confidence in her ability to run their life together, as long as she did not try to involve him in her detective business. That was simply not what he had in mind. She was the detective; he was the mechanic. That was how matters should remain.

He telephoned shortly before seven. Mma Ramotswe seemed pleased to hear from him and asked him, as was polite in the Setswana language, whether he had slept well.

"I slept very well," said Mr J.L.B. Matekoni. "I dreamed all the night about that clever and beautiful woman who has agreed to marry me."

He paused. If she was going to announce a change of mind, then this was the time that she might be expected to do it.

Mma Ramotswe laughed. "I never remember what I dream," she said. "But if I did, then I am sure that I would remember dreaming about that first-class mechanic who is going to be my husband one day."

Mr J.L.B. Matekoni smiled with relief. She had not thought better of it, and they were still engaged.

"Today we must go to the President Hotel for lunch," he said. "We shall have to celebrate this important matter."

Mma Ramotswe agreed. She would be ready at twelve o'clock and afterwards, if it was convenient, perhaps he would allow her to visit his house to see what it was like. There would be two houses now, and they would have to choose one. Her house on Zebra Drive had many good qualities, but it was rather close to the centre of town and there was a case for being farther away. His house, near the old airfield, had a larger yard and was undoubtedly quieter, but was not far from the prison and was there not an overgrown graveyard nearby? That was a major factor; if she were alone in the house at night for any reason, it would not do to be too close to a graveyard. Not that Mma Ramotswe was superstitious; her theology was conventional and had little room for unquiet spirits and the like, and yet, and yet . . .

In Mma Ramotswe's view there was God, Modimo, who lived in the sky, more or less directly above Africa. God was extremely understanding, particularly of people like herself, but to break his rules, as so many people did with complete disregard, was to invite retribution. When they died, good people, such as Mma Ramotswe's father, Obed Ramotswe, were undoubtedly welcomed by God. The fate of the others was unclear, but they were sent to some terrible place--perhaps a bit like Nigeria, she thought--and when they acknowledged their wrongdoing they would be forgiven.

God had been kind to her, thought Mma Ramotswe. He had given her a happy childhood, even if her mother had been taken from her when she was a baby. She had been looked after by her father and her kind cousin and they had taught her what it was to give love--love which she had in turn given, over those few precious days, to her tiny baby. When the child's battle for life had ended, she had briefly wondered why God had done this to her, but in time she had understood. Now his kindness to her was manifest again, this time in the appearance of Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, a good kind, man. God had sent her a husband.

After their celebration lunch in the President Hotel--a lunch at which Mr J.L.B. Matekoni ate two large steaks and Mma Ramotswe, who had a sweet tooth, dipped into rather more ice cream than she had originally intended--they drove off in Mr J.L.B. Matekoni's pickup truck to inspect his house.

"It is not a very tidy house," said Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, anxiously. "I try to keep it tidy, but that is a difficult thing for a man. There is a maid who comes in, but she makes it worse, I think. She is a very untidy woman."

"We can keep the woman who works for me," said Mma Ramotswe. "She is very good at everything. Ironing. Cleaning. Polishing. She is one of the best people in Botswana for all these tasks. We can find some other work for your person."

"And there are some rooms in this house that have got motor parts in them," added Mr J.L.B. Matekoni hurriedly. "Sometimes I have not had enough room at the garage and have had to store them in the house--interesting engines that I might need some day."

Mma Ramotswe said nothing. She now knew why Mr J.L.B. Matekoni had never invited her to the house before. His office at Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors was bad enough, with all that grease and those calendars that the parts suppliers sent him. They were ridiculous calendars, in her view, with all those far-too-thin ladies sitting on tyres and leaning against cars. Those ladies were useless for everything. They would not be good for having children, and not one of them looked as if she had her school certificate, or even her standard six. They were useless, good-time girls, who only made men all hot and bothered, and that was no good to anybody. If only men knew what fools of them these bad girls made; but they did not know it and it was hopeless trying to point it out to them.

They arrived at the entrance to his driveway and Mma Ramotswe sat in the car while Mr J.L.B. Matekoni pushed open the silver-painted gate. She noted that the dustbin had been pushed open by dogs and that scraps of paper and other rubbish were lying about. If she were to move here--if--that would soon he stopped. In traditional Botswana society, keeping the yard in good order was a woman's responsibility, and she would certainly not wish to be associated with a yard like this.

They parked in front of the stoop, under a rough car shelter that Mr J.L.B. Matekoni had fashioned out of shade-netting. It was a large house by modern standards, built in a day when builders had no reason to worry about space. There was the whole of Africa in those days, most of it unused, and nobody bothered to save space. Now it was different, and people had begun to worry about cities and how they gobbled up the bush surrounding them. This house, a low, rather gloomy bungalow under a corrugated-tin roof, had been built for a colonial official in Protectorate days. The outer walls were plastered and whitewashed, and the floors were polished red cement, laid out in large squares. Such floors always seemed cool on the feet in the hot months, although for real comfort it was hard to better the beaten mud or cattle dung of traditional floors.

Mma Ramotswe looked about her. They were in the living room, into which the front door gave immediate entrance. There was a heavy suite of furniture--expensive in its day--but now looking distinctly down-at-heel. The chairs, which had wide wooden arms, were upholstered in red, and there was a table of black hardwood on which an empty glass and an ashtray stood. On the walls there was picture of a mountain, painted on dark velvet, a wooden kudu-head, and a small picture of Nelson Mandela. The whole effect was perfectly pleasing, thought Mma Ramotswe, although it certainly had that forlorn look so characteristic of an unmarried man's room.

"This is a very fine room," observed Mma Ramotswe.

Mr J.L.B. Matekoni beamed with pleasure. "I try to keep this room tidy," he said. "It is important to have a special room for important visitors."

"Do you have any important visitors?" asked Mma Ramotswe.

Mr J.L.B. Matekoni frowned. "There have been none so far," he said. "But it is always possible."

"Yes," agreed Mma Ramotswe. "One never knows."

She looked over her shoulder, towards a door that led into the rest of the house.

"The other rooms are that way?" she asked politely.

Mr J.L.B. Matekoni nodded. "That is the not-so-tidy part of the house," he said. "Perhaps we should look at it some other time."

Mma Ramotswe shook her head and Mr J.L.B. Matekoni realised that there was no escape. This was part and parcel of marriage, he assumed; there could be no secrets--everything had to be laid bare.

Table of Contents

Reading Group Guide

The introduction, discussion questions, author biography, and suggestions for further reading that follow are designed to enhance your group’s discussion of Alexander McCall Smith’s Tears of the Giraffe, the second novel in the acclaimed Precious Ramotswe series.

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Tears of the Giraffe (The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series #2) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 154 reviews.
willownme More than 1 year ago
I am more than ever excited about this series. It really brings me into Botswana Africa. The characters are wonderful and fun to follow through all thier adventures.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a superb story McCall Smith tells in Tears of the Giraffe, and how beautifully he tells it. His No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series is fast becoming one of my favorites. Simply told, gently written, and charming in its descriptions of the people and places in the Botswana of Precious Ramotswe, makes McCall Smith's approach to storytelling unique and refreshing. Mma Precious Ramotswe, Botswana's only woman detective, and owner of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, has agreed to marry Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, proprietor of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors. However, Mr J.L.B. Matekoni's maid, Florence Peko, is not at all happy with the news and conjures up some plans of her own for Mma Ramotswe. The main plot surrounds Mma Ramotswe's search for the son of an American woman who had been missing for ten years. The woman, Andrea Curtin, does not expect her son to be alive, but she does want to know what happened to him. Mrs (no period) Curtin's husband is now dead, and all previous efforts to find her son have failed, so she pays a visit to the agency. Add to that the troubles of Mr Letsenyane Badule who wants to know if his wife is having an affair, and we have the thrust of the book. Then there are the orphans, two of whom become very important in the lives of Mma Ramotswe and Mr J.L.B. Matekoni. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Its simple, straight-forward language, and its portrayal of the qualities of the Batswana (refers to the people), kept me enthralled. I was particularly struck by the fact that Mma Ramotswe and Mr J.L.B. Matekoni were always referred to by this formal reference. More familiar forenames were never used. My only concern in reading this book was whether or not I was pronouncing names and places correctly-places like the Makadikadi Salt Pans, the town of Molepolole, and the names Tlokweng, Letsenyane and Sonqkwena, to name a few. If you read it, you will love it. Carolyn Rowe Hill
Guest More than 1 year ago
A fast flowing story set in Africa, Tears of the Giraffe is one of the best books I have read. With good values expressed through characters that are lively, this book showed a beautiful side of Africa, where commitment is held sacred, where love is deep and hospitality is the norm. Fast paced and hilarious, this book hooked me all the more to the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Apprentices den
bealsinsd More than 1 year ago
Every bit as good as the first of the series. Simple, funny, memorable characters and prose. I recommend this series to all the readers I know. I tell them it is the African equivalent of 'Murder, She Wrote', one of my favorite TV series of all time. Smith's straight-forward style is endearing, and lets the characters do the heavy lifting.
Sarah Swanson More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed book one, but Tears if the Giraffe had more emotion, plot twists and cultural insights. A touching book.
berit More than 1 year ago
Open the book and step away from who you are and where you are. This book is the second in the series and in the first book you are introduced to the characters with a few simple plots to be solved. In this, the second book, you are finding the characters to be a little more complex and the detective work even more challenging. You can almost feel the sun on your skin and the warmth of the breezes as you step away from home and into Africa. The characters are lovable and interesting, without a dull day amongst them. The book is both a study of compassion and of the land in which the story takes place. Reading this book has brought laughter and tears and a strong desire to step away and into Africa. Beautifully written and I am definately compelled to finish the series. I am reading the third in the series now. I think I shall miss them when I have read them all. Thanks goodness I bought the books, as I think that I will start over from the beginning one day. For, one day, I may need a journey into Africa again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
You still have the read the first one to get all the background on her family and Daddy, but the second one really kicks this series into high gear!
Anonymous 8 months ago
Another sweet story. I love the change of pace and look forward to becoming better acquainted with the characters in the next books.
Heduanna on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm gaining more respect for McCall Smith's approach. It's light, undemanding, but absolutely not a waste of any time at all: he's working little bits of African history, African culture, philosophy, etc. through the whole thing, and he does it masturfully. I think this might be my go-to ¿I need a break, but don't want to feel guilty afterwards¿ series.
xicanti on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In the second volume of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, Mma. Ramotswe deals with her upcoming marriage as she tackles some more cases.This was a very pleasant, enjoyable book. The author's love of Botswana and its people shines through on every page. The book is as much a celebration of Africa as it is a detective story, and it makes for some heartwarming reading.McCall Smith has approached his plot a little differently with this second installment of the series. The first book read like a set of interconnected short stories; this one has a much more definite flow to it. The story centres around Mma. Ramotswe's upcoming marriage as she deals with housing, husbandly concerns and the issue of children.It's these personal concerns that form the backbone of the book, not the detective agency's cases. These fade into the background,to a certain extent; there are only two of them this time around, with one carrying through the entire book and the other inserted as a subplot. There is slightly more emphasis on detection than there was in the first book, but the cases still rely mostly on intuition and Mma. Ramotswe's knowledge of human nature. There are very few clues, so the reader isn't really able to unravel the mysteries alongside the heroine. The book is far from a traditional mystery; I'd recommend it more to fans of stories that deal with human concerns than to readers of traditional detective fiction.All in all, this was a good read. If you liked the first book, I'm sure you'll enjoy this one.
pbirch01 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
After enjoying the first book in the series, I was excited to read Tears of the Giraffe. The second book is very similar to the first book in terms of its pacing and narrative. Both plots seem to pass slowly under the Botswana sun while the actual physical book goes by very quickly. Smith takes a slightly different tack in this book by using it as a quasi-soapbox. Smith, through his characters, rants a lot about youth of today and their lack of morals. It is never clear who he is directing this to as most of the comments are from the characters inner thoughts. Smith also adds many superfluous details and it almost seems that he is showing off his knowledge of Africa. In a light read such as this, the preachy tone quickly becomes tiring and makes me think twice if I want to read the third book in the series.
Djupstrom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fun series. It makes me want to up and go to Botswana!
bibliophile26 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the second book in the No. 1 Ladies Detective series. Mma Ramotswe and her mechanic fiancé make arrangements concerning their engagement and marriage, including where they are going to live and Mma¿s engagement ring. This book reads more like a novel rather than a collection of cases, but it was still enjoyable.
ruthich on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The 2nd in the series and just, if not more, enjoyable. Rather a poignant story this one, about a white woman trying to solve the mystery of her son's death (or is it disappearance, it's been a while!) many years ago. This is one of my favourites in the whole series. I really felt more part of the Botswana countryside and felt the people came out more.
Ice9Dragon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've been listening to this tale as I drive and fly and sometimes as I go to sleep at night. I'm not sure what is more entrancing, the lyrical voice of the narrator or the sweet prose of the author. The music and the dust, the heat and the pulse, the pace and poetry of the life in Botswana,I'm in love with all of it. I can taste the dust in my mouth and feel the heat blister my skin. No author has painted the people and a place with more enticing artifice.The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency has me enthralled with the simple stories that ring so true. Pain talk and simple themes, but so much love, and life...in Africa.
MrsLee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Things are changing for Mma Ramotswe, but she takes them all in her stride. It is a pleasure to read about her unflappable wisdom, her caring heart and those around her who love her so.
readingrat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is more of a character driven story than you usually find in a traditional cozy mystery story, which is probably why I like this series better than I like most cozy mystery series.
seoulful on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another heartwarming addition to Alexander McCall Smith's series on the dramas and mysteries surrounding the No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency of Gaborone, Botswana. We are pulled into the conflict between the languid, mannered rituals of old Botswana and the new materialistic values of the rising generation as we watch Mr J.L.B. Matekoni's inability to understand his lazy assistants at the mechanic shop and our heroine Mma Ramotswe's sadness in dealing with rampant infidelity in marriages and other assorted problems of morality as she goes about her work. Written with gentle humor and insightful character development.
hpalmete on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
After reading the first book in this series I couldn't wait to read this second installment. Invariably in this situation I end up disappointed but I am happy to report that this was not the case here!. The descriptions of Botswana (which I would have skimmed over mercilessly in any other book) were as remarkable as ever and Mma Ramotswe was an even more engaging character than in the first novel.The storytelling style differs slightly in this book but I found myself pleased with the results. The stories of the cases in the first book were no more than vignettes really. In this second novel the cases have more depth and even take more than one afternoon for Mma Ramotswe to solve. I enjoyed this tweaked style a great deal.
Yukikon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I could not stop reading this book because I really wanted to know where the story would go and know the truth of the mystery. It is a detective story but there is much more to this story. I am so busy and have got lots of things to do that I can forget considerration for others. I think I should keep in mind that I cannot live without others.
Neale on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Slightly better than the first in the series. Starting to offer more possibilities. An enjoyable read.
ini_ya on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very good read. Like the nice gentle pace of all his books read so far. Good descriptions of Africa.
jayne_charles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is my favourite of the series. Written in the same direct, readable style as the others, with a series of simple mysteries, some of which you will guess and some of which you will not. The ending of chapter 16, where Precious says grace, had me in tears. This, and the reaction of the ever-initialled Mr JLB, were written with incredible simplicity, and I think this is what makes them so powerful.
elsyd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My first book by this author, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I like a book that, while entertaining you, offers a real look into something new or into a new place. Very informative.