fiction favorites…The Great Cake Mystery

The Great Cake Mystery: Precious Ramotswe’s Very First Case, by Alexander McCall Smith, illustrations by Iain McIntosh

This is the story about a girl who became a detective.  Her name was Precious…
When her father said to her that one day she might become a detective, she at first thought, What a strange idea, but then she asked herself, Why not?  “Yes I could be a detective,” Precious said.  “But surely it will be years and years before I get a case.”
She was wrong about that.  A case came up sooner than she thought it would.  Detectives say their first case is always the hardest.  Well, Precious  was not sure if that was true for her, but her first case was certainly not easy.  This is what happened.

If you’ve read any of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency stories, you’ll have met Precious Ramotswe.  Even if you’re completely unacquainted with her though, this appealing look back to her childhood and her very first mystery solved, is sure to charm you.

Precious, who is one of the nicest girls in Botswana, lives with her father, a kind, story-telling man who has raised his daughter well.  Not only is she clever and thoughtful and cheerful, but she has a curious mind and is always asking keen questions.  Just the thing for a would-be detective.  And when a rash of disappearing sweets  occurs at her school, a budding detective is just what’s needed.  Several of the schoolchildren are quick to accuse a classmate of nabbing the delectable cakes and jammy breads that have gone missing, but Precious is too just and sensible for that.  By observing closely, and concocting a magnificent scheme, Precious is able to trap the real thief, and make a new friend into the bargain.

Told in a winsome voice, in a style that somehow reminds me of an old-fashioned British story hour on the radio, this short novel features a wonderful, strong heroine with a dependable, loving father.  The hot, dry land of Botswana provides a fabulous, exotic setting, and the plot is intriguing and perfectly-paced.  This would make a happy read-aloud for pre-readers, or a cracking good read for a stout beginning reader who’s ready for something a bit longer and juicier than the easy reader series.

Iain McIntosh has created really gorgeous illustrations — beautiful woodcut lines of wild animals, acacia trees, roundhouses enclosed by sapling fences, and the folks who make up this village, cast a thrumming, African spell.  I am quite baffled as to why McIntosh did not get so much as a short bio on the jacket of this book — his cover design alone is enough to make you grab it off the shelf.  So, I’m linking here to his marvelous website so you can enjoy his fantastic artwork.  You could get lost in this site for quite some time!

Do check this book out for your own pleasure, if you’re an Alexander McCall Smith fan, and certainly for your young elementary readers!

Here’s the Amazon link:The Great Cake Mystery: Precious Ramotswe’s Very First Case: A Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Book for Young Readers