Friday, November 30, 2018

The Colors of All the Cattle by Alexander McCall Smith

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I have written many times about my love of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books and that meeting author Alexander McCall Smith (here) is one of the highlights of my literary life.

In this latest installment, The Colors of All the Cattle, there are plenty of cups of red bush tea, generous slices of Mma Potokwane's cake, and the lenses of Mma Makutsi's glasses still flash a danger signal when she is upset. And, finally, Charlie, mechanic apprentice and detective in training, gets a serious girlfriend. He is also instrumental in solving the case of the hit-and-run motorist.

But it was the main thrust of the story that resonated with me. As it happens, Mma Ramotswe is reluctantly running for a seat on Gaborone's City Council. This is at the urging of Mma Potokwane, matron of the Orphan Farm - as insistent as only she can be. Her reasons for encouraging Mma Ramotswe in this endeavor are two-fold: one, that arch nemesis of Mma Makutsi and pretty much every one associated with the detective agency, Violet Sephotho, is running for the same seat and who knows what havoc she would wreak as a council member.

The other reason Mma P. is so adamant that her friend should run is her strong opposition to a developer's proposed building of a garish Big Fun Hotel next to a town cemetery. In a country that holds great reverence for its late family and friends, this will never do.

We are facing a similar issue here in Louisville. A developer wants to build a 33-story condo/apartment/retail center right at the entrance to one of our fine Frederick Law Olmsted parks. It would loom over our historic Cave Hill Cemetery.

Believe me, people - and I include myself - are quite upset about this and although there have been many meetings with the developer he seems unwilling to amend his plans.

The property is actually quite small. A mere triangle of land. To me, the design looks like someone attempting to stuff ten pounds of potatoes (although that is not the word I usually use) into a five pound bag. You get the picture.

To give you an idea of the scale of this monstrosity, the tallest building in Louisville, a downtown tower, is 35 stories. It fits in with other commercial buildings in the city center. Thirty-three stories in a residential area is outrageous. Not to mention that my family and I own 'property' in Cave Hill Cemetery and we would all be resting in the shadow of such a monolith for eternity.

The plans have not been approved by the planning commission and city council as yet, but this same developer recently got approval to tear down a three-story apartment building in a nearby residential area and is planning to build a 15-story condominium in its place. That was opposed by the neighborhood association (it took the developer to court and lost) and many residents of the area. 

But, back to Mma Ramotswe and her friends. Over tea, they spend time musing about greedy property developers, the difference between good progress and bad progress, the honesty or dishonesty of politicians, and the importance of voting in civic elections.

I won't tell you how things turn out for Mma Ramotswe and Gaborone and the late residents of the cemetery as that would spoil your enjoyment of this book. 

But, even if your city or town is not being overrun by concrete and glass high-rise buildings, I think you will be entertained by this tale. It is a charmer.

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