I just love Precious Ramotswe, but this isn’t my favorite book in Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series.
Mma Ramotswe takes on two cases, only one for pay, in The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon. First, Mma Sheba, a lawyer who was once kind to Mma Ramotswe in a socially awkward moment, asks her to prove that a boy is not the real nephew of a deceased man for whom she’s serving as executor. She claims that the boy’s aunt is lying about his identity, and therefore the man’s farm and cattle shouldn’t go to him. Mma Ramotswe finds it a somewhat odd request (to prove that he’s not rather than to find out if he is), but remembering that moment of kindness, she agrees to take the case.
Second, she’s kind of tricked into helping with another case, not for pay. She notices that an acquaintance has moved her beauty salon from an old shack in a bad part of town to a better, pricier location. Mma Ramotswe steps inside the Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon and the owner, Mma Soleti, offers her a skin treatment, free of charge — she’s the first customer! But after the treatment, Mma Soleti asks for some free investigative work in exchange: find out who is conducting a rumor campaign against the salon and keeping the customers away.
In the meantime, Mma Ramotswe has to consider another problem: the absence of Mma Makutsi, the associate detective who’s taking some time away from the office following her marriage to Phuti. Although Mma Ramotswe is often irritated by Mma Makutsi — her tactless comments in front of customers, her insistence on being called an “associate detective” — after so many years of working as a team, she finds it hard to work without Grace’s flashing eyeglasses, talking shoes and often insightful ideas.
The cases were interesting enough, but the sentimentality of the Mma Makutsi storyline was too much for me. Even Rra J.L.B. Matakoni’s hilarious visit to a class purporting to teach him to be a modern man could not overcome the maudlin scenes featuring Mma Ramotswe pining for her assistant, at least not to me.
Nonetheless, if you’re a fan of the series you should read this one for a couple of important things that happen in the characters’ personal lives. I would just recommend that you skim over the ooey gooey parts.