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Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon

"The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon, No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" by Alexander McCall Smith, Pantheon, 242 pages, $24.95

Like a long-awaited spring rain in Botswana, Mma Precious Ramotswe, memorable lady detective, returns to restore the proper order of things in "The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon," the 14th installment in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith.

And just as she always does in this well-loved series, Precious uses her natural instincts and insightful detective skills to solve complicated cases. But this time it is a bit different. She worries that her indispensable assistant, Grace Makutsi Radiphuti, will no longer be by her side. Grace has kept her pregnancy and subsequent parenting plans to herself, and everyone knows in Botswana that family matters come first and a baby changes everything.

Modern ideas bump up against traditional values, causing all sorts of unexpected outcomes. Facing the absence of her close friend and tea-drinking companion, Precious experiences profound loss. Her husband, Mr. J.L.B. Matakoni, thinks her depression must be caused by something he has done, so when classes are offered on how to be a modern husband, he signs up with disastrous results. Bad news continues with the arrival of Phuti’s aunt, still driving her cow-dung-colored car and taking charge once more in the Radiphuti household, unaware that pythons also enjoy the cool calm of a well-run family home.

Precious must gather her wits and use her best resources to identify which child is the real heir to the family farm while at the same time she must sort out who is using black magic to ruin Gaberone’s newest beauty salon. Appropriate solutions to these problems eventually show themselves, especially after good doses of wisdom and compassion are applied.

"The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon" is an enjoyable short read that fits into a busy schedule. It is satisfying, cleverly constructed and surprisingly fresh from an author who writes three other book series with nearly annual installments for each. In the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, McCall Smith has created beloved characters who reside with great pride and humanity in a beautiful, wild country. Fans who are invested in these unforgettable characters are more than happy to see them come alive yet again in another story, just in time for spring.

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