The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series #14)

The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series #14)

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 has her hands full with two puzzling cases. The first concerns a young man hoping to claim his inheritance at his uncle’s farm. The farmer’s lawyer fears that this self-professed nephew may be falsely impersonating the real heir, and asks Mma Ramotswe to look into his identity. The second involves the just-opened Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon, which has been shadowed by misfortune, from bad omens in the mail to swirling rumors that its products are dangerous. The salon’s proprietor fears that someone is trying to put her out of business—but who? Meanwhile, Mma Ramotswe has come to suspect that her intrepid associate Grace Makutsi is pregnant—though Mma Makutsi has mentioned nothing.
 
With genuine warmth, sympathy, and wit, Alexander McCall Smith explores marriage, parenthood, and the importance of the traditions that shape and guide our lives.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307473004
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/03/2014
Series: No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series , #14
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 105,652
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, and the 44 Scotland Street series. He is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and has served with many national and international organizations concerned with bioethics. He was born in what is now known as Zimbabwe and taught law at the University of Botswana. He lives in Scotland.

Hometown:

Edinburgh, Scotland

Date of Birth:

August 24, 1948

Place of Birth:

Zimbabwe

Read an Excerpt

There had been no further debate on the issue, and Mma Ramotswe had learned to steer clear of certain topics—such as that one—that could be guaranteed to elicit an extreme response from her somewhat prickly assistant. Mma Makutsi had many merits, she came to realise, and these easily outweighed her occasional faults. And now, with Mma Makutsi on maternity leave and the office seeming strangely quiet as a result, there was something else that she came to realise: she missed her assistant in a way and to a degree that she had never anticipated. She missed her occasional outbursts; she missed her comments on what was in the newspapers; she even missed the way in which she would intervene in the conversation Mma Ramotswe was having with clients, dropping in observations from her position to the rear and making them stop and turn their heads to reply to somebody over their shoulder—not an easy thing to do. All of that she missed, just as she missed Mma Makutsi’s knack of putting her teacup down on the desk in a manner that so completely revealed her thinking on the subject under discussion. There was nobody else she knew who could put a cup down on a desk to quite the same effect. It was, she decided, one of the many respects in which Mma Makutsi was—and here she could think of only one word to express it—irreplaceable. There simply could never be another Mma Makutsi. There could never be another woman from Bobonong, of all places, with flashing round glasses and ninety-seven per cent in the final examinations of the Botswana Secretarial College. There could never be another person who was even remotely capable of standing up to somebody like Mma Potokwane, or putting Charlie in his place when, with all the confidence and ignorance of the young male, he made some outrageous comment. If Mma Makutsi decided not to return from maternity leave then Mma Ramotswe thought that the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency would never be the same again, and might not be worth continuing with.
 
She looked about her. She had worked as a detective for some years now, and in that time she had done her best for her clients. She liked to think that she had made a difference to the lives of at least some people and helped them to deal with problems that had become too burdensome for them to handle on their own. Now, however, surveying the shabby little office, she wondered whether she really had achieved very much. It was a rare moment of gloom, and it was at this point that she realised she was doing something that she very seldom did. She supported many people in their tears—for tears could so easily come to those who were recounting their troubles—but there were few occasions on which she herself cried. If you are there to staunch the tears of the world, then it does not cross your mind that you yourself may weep. But now she did, not copiously but discreetly and inconsequentially, and barely noticeably—except to Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, who chose that moment to come into the room, wiping the grease off his hands, ready with a remark about what he had just discovered under the latest unfortunate car.
 
For a moment he stood quite still. Then, letting the lint fall from his hands, he swiftly crossed the room and put his arm about his wife’s shoulder, lowering his head so that they were cheek to cheek and she could feel the stubble on his chin and the warmth of his breath.
 
“My Precious, my Precious.”
 
She reached up and took his hand. There was still a smear on it—some vital fl uid of the injured car to which he had been attending—but she paid no attention to that.
 
“I’m sorry,” she said. “There is really no reason for me to cry. I am being silly.”
 
“You are not silly, Mma. You are never silly. What is it?”
 
With her free hand she took the handkerchief from where it was tucked into the front of her dress. She blew her nose, and with some determination too. After all, the blowing of a nose can be the punctuation that brings such moments to an end.
 
“I am much better now,” she said. “I have been sitting and thinking when I should be working. And without Mma Makutsi to talk to, well, you know how hard it can be to sit with the problems of other people.”
 
He knew, or thought he knew. Yes, he knew how she felt. “Just like cars,” he said. “You sit and look at a car and you think of all its problems, and it can get you down.”
 
“Yes, I’m sure it can.” She smiled at him. “I’ll be all right, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni. Mma Makutsi will come back and everything will be the same again.”
 
He removed his hand from her shoulder and stood up. “I will make you tea,” he said.
 
She looked at him with fondness. For some reason, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni did not make very good tea. It was something to do with the quantities of tea he put in the pot, or with not allowing the water to boil properly, or with the way he poured it. For whatever reason, his tea was never quite of the standard achieved by her or by Mma Makutsi. So she thanked him and said that it would be good for her to do something instead of sitting at her desk and moping, and then she made the tea for herself and for her husband, and for Charlie and Fanwell too, and Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni took his cup back into the garage where he sipped at it thoughtfully while he decided what to do.

Reading Group Guide

This guide is designed to enhance your reading group’s focus on some of the main concepts in this The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon, and explore different perspectives from each individual reader. Feel free to wander in your discussions, and use this as a guideline only!

1. What is the novel saying about friendship, in particular the friendship between Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi?

2. Kirkus Reviews has compared Alexander McCall Smith’s books to “a warm, understated serving of comfort food.” How is this novel like comfort food? And what role does comforting food play in McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novels?

3. Describe the consumer culture Mma Ramotswe bemoans in the beginning of the book, where “everything is made to be thrown away rather than fixed. It is all very wasteful.” What are your thoughts on today’s throwaway culture? Do you do anything to personally counteract this trend?

4. McCall Smith describes the sounds of Mma Makutsi’s house, “the sounds that can be heard in every house if one has the time to listen.” Why should we occasionally stop and listen to these types of sounds, sounds that usually are just background noise?

5. What is the author saying about an individual’s memory and singular perception when he says “all of us had a view from somewhere; a view of the world from the perspective of who we were, of what happened to us, of how we thought about things”? Do you agree with him? Is it possible to alter this view?

6. Mma Ramotswe believes that “babies—ordinary babies—liked to look at the sky, or watch chickens, or suck on blankets. They did not want to add.” What do you think about this view of child rearing? If you’ve read 44 Scotland Street, compare this view with that of Bertie’s mother.

7. Take a closer look at McCall Smith’s chapter titles. What do they add to the story? Do you think the author has fun coming up with these headers?

8. Discuss Mma Ramotswe’s feelings about forgiving and forgetting. Do you agree that once you forgive, you should forget, “because if you did not forget, then your forgiveness would be tested . . . and you might go back to anger, and to hating.”? Can you provide any personal examples?

9. Upon learning about some of the potions used in Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon, Mma Ramotswe wonders if there is “some sort of lemon juice for inside beauty” that takes away the blemishes and cleanses. What does she believe would make good potions for cleaning and healing a person inside? Do you agree?

10. Discuss superstitions in this book and in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series more generally. There are still many people in Botswana (and throughout the world) with strong local superstitions. What are Mma Ramotswe’s and Mma Makutsi’s views on them? What are yours? Do you have any superstitions you can’t let go of?

11. When she and Mma Ramotswe take a brief walk, Gwithie, points out a plant used as a remedy for some ailments: “Like almost everything in the bush, it has its uses.” Name some natural plant remedies from the Kalahari bush that appear in this book. Would you try them? Do you believe they are real or superstitions? Where do most of our healing medicines come from?

12. Though the novel celebrates the birth of Mma Makutsi’s baby, it mourns the loss of Mma Ramotswe’s and Gwithie’s. What is the place of grief in this novel?

13. “It’s just that sometimes it all gets too much for women and it would help a great deal if their husbands could be a little bit more modern,” says Mma Potokwane to Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni. Discuss this quote. What do you think about the relationship between Mma Ramotswe and Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni? Is it a traditional relationship or a modern one? Compare this quote and the relationships in the novel in light of the cultural conversations around recent books such as Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and Debora Spar’s Wonder Women.

14. Mma Ramotswe holds back and doesn’t tell Mma Makutsi how intensely she misses her while she’s out on maternity leave, and how much she values their friendship. Why doesn’t she say everything she was thinking, and why does the author say that, “our heart is not always able to say what it wants to say and frequently has to content itself with less”? Why is the word not spoken just as important as what is voiced?

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The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 50 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I eagerly await the newest book from the Ladies Detective Agency series! I was not dissapointed! The series is a nicely paced one with beautiful descriptions of a different country and culture than our own. It is about a woman who has come across many difficulties in life and has the courage and belief in herself to overcome those problems.She is instrumental in helping the people around her grow as well. I think mainly of her "assistant detective " Mma Makutsi" .How the people around her have grown ! Can't wait for the next one !! Although I also read many of Alexander McCall Smiths books too and find him to be a most excellent writer!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This series is always thoughtful, sweet, and deceptively deep. Highest recommendation.
NewsieQ More than 1 year ago
Whenever I get a new No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency mystery in my hands, I can almost feel my stress level go down, down, down. Tension floats away. And I’m off to another world, the world of Precious Ramotswe in rural Botswana. In The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon, she’s taken on a case brought to her by an attorney handling an estate case. The lawyer’s intuition tells her there’s something fishy about a man who claims to be the heir to a substantial farm. She wants Precious to investigate. Then there’s the case of the beauty salon owner who is the victim of nasty rumors designed to bring down her business, which has just relocated to an upscale shopping mall. To top it all off, Precious is concerned about her associate detective, Grace Makutsi, who is obviously pregnant, but who has not acknowledged the fact or mentioned any plans for a maternity leave. I collect just a handful of series in hardcover – and this is one of them. It makes me feel happy just to see them on the shelf, knowing that I can revisit Precious any time I want to.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Same setting, same characters, same tired plot. Basically a three page essay. Wait for the bargain table.
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon is the fourteenth book in the popular Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency series by British author, Alexander McCall Smith. Botswana’s first female private detective has a few interesting cases to solve: a solicitor asks her to verify the identity of a young man who is the beneficiary of a will; and the proprietor of the Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon is subject to threats and slander from an unknown quarter. All the more challenging for Mma Ramotswe, as Mma Makutsi is off having a baby. Mma Makutsi faces childbirth with ease, although she has slightly less aplomb when dealing with a cobra in her new house. While it seems Phuti’s interfering aunt may be a problem with the baby, apprentice Charlie’s reaction to this Radiphuti baby is indeed a surprise. And has the terrible Violet Sephotho been up to more mischief? Mma Ramotswe muses on flats and hats, ants and aunts, names, wet nurses, superstitions and traditional ways, other people’s marriages, beer and beauty treatments, the effect of hot weather on business, taking the time to listen, optimistic accounting, the entire truth, protecting one’s sources and private milk. She counts her blessings, misses Grace, finds the perfect gift for the baby, gets her tiny white van comprehensively stuck in the mud, has her feet lovingly washed and receives a charming letter from Clovis Anderson, that revered author of the Principles of Private Detection. There are no prizes for guessing which of the apprentices finally qualifies as a mechanic. Mr J L B Matekoni takes steps to become a modern husband, one of which includes baked beans and sausages. As usual, this instalment is charming, uplifting and heart-warming. This unabridged audio version of the book is again narrated by the mesmerising voice of Adjoa Andoh. 
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Delightful book, delightful series! Can hardly wait to read the next book in the series.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
#1 Ladies Detective read for a lazy hot summer afternoon.
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ebsMN More than 1 year ago
I've read all of this series and always liked that they were slice of life more than mystery books. But lately the slice of life has gotten to be so redundant that they've become less fun. Too much 'atmosphere' (read as descriptions of landscape - already addressed in each earlier book), too little plot.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Delphimo More than 1 year ago
This audio book presented a delightful excursion to Africa after all the Christmas rush. I love to hear the pronunciation of the names that seem so musical. The birth of Grace's birthday and her very short maternity leave expound on the ups and downs of a relationship. Smith presents a love of country and an acceptance of life. Precious plods on with her detective business, but realizes how greatly she misses Grace. Jealousy and greed play a small role in the story, but truth and honesty prevail. The chapter where J L goes to a class to become a modern husband is hilarious, but also sadly filled with truth
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
advocate More than 1 year ago
This was an enjoyable read, nothing heavy, nothing cerebral, just a continuation of this pleasant series where nohing moves too fast and nothing major occurs over short periods of time. You can't help feeling as though the imagary takes you out of your chair and into Botswana. This is a nice way to spend time just enjoying a book.
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duchenf More than 1 year ago
I still love these gentle books.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
All the books on this series are wonderful. "The minor Adjustment Beauty Club". Is even better. A. McCall -Smith writes with his heart and the book was a joy to read.