A few millimeters off the top of Mount TBR

Review – Tea Time for the Traditionally Built, by Alexander McCall Smith

A keeper? Eh, maybe.

I didn’t want to throw it across the room.

Well, maybe, at the very end. More of a gentle toss, really. It’s hard to get worked up about any of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency stories, and that’s a large part of their appeal. As in the other subdued adventures of Mma Precious Ramotswe and her friends and family, nobody is ever threatened with degradation or violent crime. This is a very middle-class, cozier than cozy, series of mysteries; the standard “cozy” involves at least one major felony, generally murder, but as often as not Mma Ramotswe deals with situations that turn out not to be criminal at all. Misunderstandings are common, heartbreak is entirely possible, life isn’t exactly easy, but on the whole Alexander McCall Smith’s version of Botswana is a pretty amicable place to visit.

My biggest complaint about this particular story is that the central problem dribbles away into the desert sands even more than usual for the series. On the one hand, Mma Ramotswe eventually figures out why the Kalahari Swoopers have suddenly stopped winning games, but I had to read and re-read the last few pages several times to notice that she does finally tell Mr. Molofololo, the annoying team owner, what’s wrong. We never see their final confrontation – we only hear Mma Ramotswe telling her good friend Mma Potokwane how it all turned out, as one nugget of news in a conversation where the real interest lies elsewhere.

Will I keep this book? I really don’t know. It’s literary chicken soup, the kind of undemanding read that might be pleasant when you’re under great stress or recovering from the flu. If I had infinite shelf space, it could stay; but I don’t. Maybe I’ll look at the next Mma Ramotswe story to make up my mind.


7 responses to “A few millimeters off the top of Mount TBR

  1. Are you already close to the top???

    • Oh, nowhere near it! At least, not if we think of this project as climbing the mountain.

      I didn’t realize it until I got your comment, but that’s a misleading title for the post. You see, what I’m trying to do is make Mount TBR smaller – I guess you could say I’m strip-mining it. And this is just one small book out of – I don’t know – hundreds waiting for attention. So what I did was scrape a tiny layer off the peak of the mountain. There’s so very, very much left to chisel away.

  2. I haven’t read any books in this series, but I did enjoy the tv mini series. Guess I won’t look up any of the books since you haven’t given it a great rating.

    • I wouldn’t avoid the series, but if you have a library handy you might want to see if you can borrow one or two of the early books and see if it’s to your taste before buying any. “Teatime for the Traditionally Built” struck me as one of the weaker Mma Ramotswe stories – I don’t know yet if that means the series has run its course, or if this was just a mediocre book. I thought the third one (Morality for Beautiful Girls) was the best.

  3. Good idea about checking the library especially since I am trying to declutter my house (including the books). I don’t need to buy any more books for a year as I could find enough unread reading material from my own shelves.

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