Book Review: The Kalahari Typing School for Men

Originally published: 2002

Author: Alexander McCall Smith

Genres: Detective fiction, Mystery

Followed by: The Full Cupboard of Life

Preceded by: Morality for Beautiful Girls

The Kalahari Typing School for Men marks the fourth appearance of Precious Ramotswe, protagonist of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. The book is a charming account of a female private detective and the everyday challenges she faces in Botswana.

In this fourth installment, McCall Smith takes up the story of Mma Ramotswe further. Mma Ramotswe and her fiancé Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni continue to take care of the sibling orphans in their care but they have still not fixed a wedding date. Precious’s assistant, Mma Makutsi is unhappy with her current circumstances- being single, with a sick brother to take care of and very low income. But the wise and hardworking Mma Maktutsi doesn’t give up. She dreams of a better life and makes her dream a reality by turning an entrepreneur.  She is helped by Mma Ramotswe and Mr. Matekoni as she sets out to open a typing school for men.

Along the way, Mma Ramotswe solves a few cases and also deals with an unexpected competition- a sexist, rival detective who boasts of having worked with FBI. Mma Ramotswe comes across an interesting case where a rice & successful person wishes to atone for his past sins and asks Mma Ramotswe to find the persons he has wronged. Mma Ramotswe faces another moral dilemma when she finds about the man Mma Makutsi is dating. She doesn’t want to hurt Mma Makutsi by telling her that the man is already married nor does she want Mma Makutsi to be blissfully unaware of the fact. She ultimately brings the matter to a satisfying yet hardly sentimental conclusion.

This series is not for the ones looking for thrill and action. It is for the ones who want to read it for the gentle rhythm of narration and the delightfully laidback life of Botswana. With this series, I am introduced to this wonderful country, its people and culture. The characters in the book are real and kind people. The community is a close-knit one and helpful. Being kind and helpful is just a way of life for them.

The real appeal of the book lies in Mma Ramotswe’s common sense laced with experience and folk wisdom. She is simply Precious (just like her name). We all need to have a Mma Ramotswe in our lives filling us with wisdom, kindness, love and a sense of humour. This book and the other ones that I have read so far in the series bring a smile on the face and restore your faith in humanity. They bring to fore the pleasures of a simple life. The series enriches your knowledge about Botswana and African culture in general.

Another graceful entry in a pleasingly modest and delightful series which I highly recommend!

©2018 Shaloo Walia All rights reserved

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2 comments

  1. You’re right about this not being thrills and action–usually expected in detective novels. It took me a bit to appreciate her well-chosen words and pacing and then I began to love her take on being an effective detective.

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