In the Company of Cheerful Ladies
Cover of the first edition (Polygon Press)
|Author||Alexander McCall Smith|
|Cover artist||Design: Barrie Tullett & James Hutcheson; photo: Sandy Grant|
|Series||The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series|
|Genre||Detective, Mystery novel|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback), Audio (Cassette & CD)|
|Pages||231 pp (1st edition hardback)|
|Preceded by||The Full Cupboard of Life (2004)|
|Followed by||Blue Shoes and Happiness (2006)|
In the Company of Cheerful Ladies is the sixth in The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series of novels by Alexander McCall Smith, set in Gaborone, Botswana, and featuring the Motswana protagonist Precious Ramotswe.
Work and personal worries, and shadows from the past, threaten the happiness of Mma Ramotswe and her new husband Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni. But her assistant, Mma Makutsi, and a new employee to whom Mma Ramotswe has been kind, are determined to repay their debt of gratitude by helping her in their turn. The problems are overcome, and Mma Makutsi herself finds love at last.
Mma Ramotswe and her new husband settle down to married life with their foster-children, but problems are piling up. At Mr J.L.B. Matekoni's own house, the tenant is running an illegal drinking den. Mma Ramotswe's violent ex-husband Note Mokote reappears. Then Charlie, the apprentice, gets entangled with a wealthy married woman. Help arrives in the person of Mr Polopetsi, whom Mma Ramotswe accidentally knocks off his bicycle with her van. He has been unemployed following a spell in prison after what appears to have been a miscarriage of justice, and Mma Ramotswe persuades her husband to employ him out of guilt and sympathy, but he proves an asset to the garage.
Mma Makutsi's love prospects improve when she starts dancing lessons and is partnered with another student, Mr Radiphuti. At first she tries to avoid him, as he is awkward and stammers, but he turns out to be a kind and gentle man and a romance begins. She removes some of Mma Ramotswe's burden of worry by solving an important fraud investigation on her own, and manoeuvring Charlie back to work. Mr Radiphuti's father enlists the help of Mma Ramotswe to put a proposal of marriage from his shy son to Mma Makutsi, and the two become engaged.
Literary significance and reception
This was the first of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency novels to be printed in hardback, with a very large initial print run of 101,000 copies to meet the anticipated demand. Its critical reception was mixed: The Scotsman stated that "McCall Smith’s beautiful evocation of life in Botswana offers sagacity, charm and a feeling of fable, combined with an utter and truthful sense of place, of belonging; however, The Sunday Times called the book "lacking in narrative drive" and concluded that "...some readers may wish to escape to somewhere a little more invigorating".
In 2004, the year of the novel's publication, Alexander McCall Smith won the Author of the Year award at the British Book Awards  and the Crime Writers Association Dagger in the Library award, both for the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series.
- "The Scotsman: Precious success puts publisher in major league. 17 August 2004".
- "The Scotsman: Art of Simple Truth. Tom Adair, 28 August 2004".
- "The Sunday Times: Review of the novel by Peter Parker, 15 August 2004". The Times (London). 15 August 2004. Retrieved 5 May 2010.
- "British Book Awards website: List of previous winners".
- "Crime Writers Association website: list of Dagger award winners".