The Miracle at Speedy Motors (Magill's Literary Annual 2009)
Mma Precious Ramotswe is becoming recognized in her capital city Gaborone and other areas of Botswana as the founder of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency and as someone who can solve problems for others. Such is the case with Mma Manka Sebina, who, in Alexander McCall Smith’s The Miracle at Speedy Motors, comes to the detective agency to see if Mma Ramotswe can trace some family members for her. She starts by mentioning specific times and places she has seen Mma Ramotswe, and just as Mma Ramotswe is beginning to think of the word “stalker,” Mma Sebina explains that some people just stand out, and that everybody knows about Mma Ramotswe, the only woman detective in Botswana. Mma Ramotswe silently agrees this is reasonable, especially since most people have an unreasonable idea of the glamour of what a private detective actually does.
When Mma Ramotswe asks who the relatives are that Mma Sebina wants located, there is some confusion when Mma Sebina says she does not know. Mma Ramotswe wisely asks her assistant, Mma Grace Makutsi, to put on the kettle to make some tea for the three of them. Tea almost always makes thing easier, she knows. Mma Sebina was adopted, and both of the parents who raised her are now “late,” meaning dead. What she is seeking, then, is to find out who her birthparents are and to find any living relatives. Mma Ramotswe soon starts tracking down people who knew her adoptive parents in order to get leads on her birthparents. The persons she speaks to do not all tell the same story about the biological parents.
Mma Ramotswe then visits her old acquaintance, Mma Potokwane. It was from Mma Potokwane’s farm for orphaned children that Mma Ramotswe’s husband, Mr. J. L. B. Matekom (whom Mma Ramotswe always refers to and addresses by that full designation), had adopted two children, a boy, Puso, and a girl, Motholeli, before Mma Ramotswe agreed to marry him. When she did, she considered them her dear children, too. Mma Potokwane remembers Mma Sebina as a little four-year-old girl, and she tells Mma Ramotswe the name of an older brother, adopted by a different family. Mma Ramotswe locates him and introduces him to his long-lost sister, only to have Mma Potokwane tell her a few days later that she was wrong, and there was no brother.
This case, nearly the only client case in the novel, is complicated enough, but there are several other problems Mma Ramotswe has to deal with, one concerning her specifically and several concerning her family or the employees of the agency and the garage. The problem that relates directly to Mma Ramotswe is that someone is sending her anonymous threatening letters. Although she would prefer not to let this bother her, she is rightly disturbed, and she is not sure how to find the culprit. The letters are not sent through the mail but left at the building that houses both the detective agency and the Speedy Motors garage. It is even possible that they could be coming from her part-time helper, Mr. Polopetsi, who also works part time at the garage. She certainly does not want to believe that of him, since she was the one who hired him.
Mma Makutsi, ever mindful of her distinction of making the highest score in the history of the Botswana Secretarial School, consistently thinks she should be promoted to a higher rank in the detective agency, and she sometimes makes decisions without consulting Mma Ramotswe. She takes great pride in the fact she is engaged to a successful businessman, referring to him as the owner of the Double Comfort Furniture Shop, although his father is still the owner. Mma Makutsi thinks this engagement will show some of the others in her secretarial school class who had laughed at her, such as Violet Sephotho, that she is not someone to be considered beneath them socially. Currently, however, she has a problem concerning a fancy new bed that her fiancé, Phuti Radiphuti, has bought in anticipation of their still unscheduled wedding. Should she admit to Phuti what happened to the bed? How will he react? Why have...
(The entire section is 1695 words.)
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