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Archived Staff Picks - February 2015


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Archived Staff Picks - February 2015

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency
by Alexander McCall-Smith
Recommended by Marilyn

This gently paced mystery novel, set in the African country of Botswana, has as its central character the self-sufficient, wise, and compassionate Precious Ramotswe. As the narrative explores the variety of circumstances that enabled her to start her agency and the agency's first cases, it also explores themes relating to the independence of women, African pride, and relationships between parents and children.

After summarizing how Mma Ramotswe inherited from her father both the means and the will to make an independent living, and how she used both to start the only detective agency in Botswana run by women, the narrative summarizes her first successful case - how she uncovered the true identity of a man posing as a client's father. The narrative then recounts Mma Ramotswe's past in greater detail - her father's youth and young adulthood working in the mines, the death of her mother, the running of the household by a cousin of her father's, and her marriage to a man who both got her pregnant and abused her. Narration also describes how, after the sudden departure of her husband and the death of her father, Mma Ramotswe bought herself a house, started The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, and hired the efficient Mma Grace Makutsi, recently graduated from secretarial college, to work as her assistant and receptionist.

The narrative then follows Mma Ramotswe through her investigation and resolution of several cases - a missing husband, the suspicious employee of an old friend, an over-protective father concerned about the behavior of his daughter, a stolen car, and a pair of fraudulent twin doctors. The case that preoccupies her most, however, is that of a missing boy who, she fears, is connected to the discovery of a human bone in the glove compartment of a van being serviced by her friend, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni.

Matekoni, it turns out, has feelings for Mma Ramotswe that go beyond friendship, feelings that lead him at times into doing things he doesn't want to do in order to help her. At one point, he asks her to marry him, but for Mma Ramotswe, memories of her abusive husband and her own drive for independence have led her to a rejection of marriage. She firmly, but kindly, rejects Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni's proposal.

Interspersed with all these narrative elements are occasional commentaries on other aspects of Mma Ramotswe's life - her pride in being African, in her home, and in her success, the beauty of the land, and her determination to become a better investigator. This last she accomplishes through careful study of a guide to being a detective. There are also reflections on the death of her prematurely born child, and on her being "traditionally built" ... in other words, contentedly overweight.

Meanwhile, investigations of the source of the human bone eventually lead Mma Ramotswe to a confrontation with the wife of a witch doctor, who tells her the missing boy is working for her and in fact has all his fingers - bones, she says, can be purchased freely in other parts of Africa. She then takes Mma Ramotswe to the cattle ranch where her husband has put the boy to work. Mma Ramotswe hurries him into her van, leaves the witch doctor's wife behind, and drives the boy back home for a reunion with his parents.

After the successful conclusion of the case of the missing boy, Mma Ramotswe asks for Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni's help in repairing the engine of her dust-damaged van. After he's finished work, they sit together and drink tea while waiting for dinner to finish cooking, and Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni again asks Mma Ramotswe to marry him. This time, she says yes.

This title is available in Regular Print, Book on CD, Downloadable eBook and DVD formats.

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust (Flavia de Luce #7)
By Alan Bradley
Recommended by Pauline

Hard on the heels of the return of her mother's body from the frozen reaches of the Himalayas, Flavia, for her indiscretions, is banished from her home at Buckshaw and shipped across the ocean to Miss Bodycote's Female Academy in Toronto, her mother's alma mater, there to be inducted into a mysterious organization known as the Nide.

No sooner does she arrive, however, than a body comes crashing down out of the chimney and into her room, setting off a series of investigations into mysterious disappearances of girls from the school.

This title is available in Regular Print, Large Print, Book on CD, Downloadable eBook and AudioBook formats.

Trust No One
By: Jayne Ann Krentz
Recommended by Kim

It's no coincidence when Grace Elland finds a vodka bottle next to the lifeless body of her boss, motivational speaker Sprague Witherspoon. The bottle is a terrifying--and deliberate--reminder of the horrors of her past. Grace retreats to her hometown to regroup and tries to put everything she's learned about positive thinking into practice--a process that is seriously challenged on the world's worst blind date. Awkward doesn't begin to describe her evening with venture-capitalist Julius Arkwright.

She has nothing in common with a man who lives to make money, but the intense ex-Marine does have some skills that Grace can use--and he's the perfect man to help her when it becomes clear she is being stalked.

As Witherspoon's financial empire continues to crumble around them, taking a deadly toll, Julius will help Grace step into her past to uncover a devious plan to destroy not only Grace, but everyone around her.

When I started reading this novel it seemed very slow paced as compared to others Jayne Ann Krentz has written.  I am glad that I stuck with it because the ending was not quite what I was expecting.

This title is available in Regular Print, Large Print and Downloadable eBook formats.

This review is partially from

Orange is the new black
By:  Piper Kerman
Recommended by Pauline

With a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles the reckless young woman who delivered a suitcase of drug money ten years before. But that past has caught up with her. Convicted and sentenced to fifteen months at the infamous federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut, the well-heeled Smith College alumna is now inmate #11187-424--one of the millions of people who disappear "down the rabbit hole" of the American penal system. From her first strip search to her final release, Kerman learns to navigate this strange world with its strictly enforced codes of behavior and arbitrary rules. She meets women from all walks of life, who surprise her with small tokens of generosity, hard words of wisdom, and simple acts of acceptance. Heartbreaking, hilarious, and at times enraging, Kerman's story offers a rare look into the lives of women in prison--why it is we lock so many away and what happens to them when they're there.

This title is available in Non-Fiction, Book on CD, DVD, Downloadable eBook and AudioBook formats.

Of Things Gone Astray
By: Janina Matthewson
Recommended by Rachel

"Of Things Gone Astray" is a book about loss of all kinds. Imagine losing something in your life you depend on, the thing that you built your entire comfort zone around. Most of us don't have any idea what that might be, it's taken for granted that it will just always be there. In "Of Thing Gone Astray" one morning the characters wake up and have suddenly and unexpectedly lost something very important to them, the front wall of a house, a job, or the keys of a cherished piano. These tiny losses have monumental effects on each. Forcing them to deal with past losses, change their behavior, or somehow transform.

The chapters are small with the point of view changing from character to character slowly unraveling each story and what connects them. This book really makes you think of what would you do when life takes away something that you're grasping to tightly to. Will you let go and find a new way or will you become rooted in denial of the facts and fear? I enjoyed this book very much but think a few of the characters deserved a different ending.

This title is available in Downloadable eBook format.

This review is partially from


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