Daily Post Prompt: Copycat

I admit I actually wrote this story last year, but it fits today’s prompt so perfectly that I’m using it anyway.

THE CASE OF THE COPY-CAT CRIMES

man-at-desk-brown

Detective Becker pressed his left hand against his temple. It was tender from the pain where a migraine was threatening, but he had to go over this list of people who had received threats in the past month. The letters had all been made out in the same way: typed words that had been cut and pasted – one word at a time – onto a black sheet of paper and mailed in red envelopes. He’d sworn he’d figure out the nexus they shared that had made them victims of such a hateful attack, but time wasn’t on his side any longer, because the first two people on the list had already been killed.

His buzzer sounded, and his secretary reported that he had a call waiting on line one: his superior, Detective Wagner. “Yes sir,” Becker spoke into the phone. “What can I do for you?”

“The press has gotten wind of the fact that eight other people have received threatening letters. They’re pushing for a story, but, of course, we can’t tell them anything that could disrupt the investigation. I just wanted you to be forewarned that they’ll be waiting outside the front door when you leave the office.”

“Thanks for the warning. I slip out the basement entrance.”

“Have you figured out any connection yet between the two who are dead and the other eight?”

“I think I may have, Sir. All of these people served on a jury together about fifteen years ago. The decision of that jury was unanimous and resulted in the death sentence for the man on trial.”

“Who?”

“Malcom Leiberman.”

Dead silence on the other end of the line caused Becker to stay quiet and wait. He could hear that the wind outside had started blowing harder, and he knew the storm that had been predicted was almost upon them. Finally, Wagner responded: “You know, of course, that Leiberman was convicted of perpetrating a series of murders after sending out threatening letters to his victims.”

Becker sucked in his breath. “No sir … no, I haven’t had time to research the case yet. But that’s too weird.”

“Yes,” replied Wagner. “And now I think I know who we’re looking for. His brother swore he’d get revenge. But then he got sick with some disease that the doctors said was incurable, and he was hospitalized for years. I guess everybody forgot about his threats. I know I did. But we need to find out if he’s still alive, and if so …”

“I’m on it, Sir,” Becker said. “I’ll call you back as soon as I have the information.”

Two hours later, Becker walked into Wagner’s office with a medical report. “He’s alive all right,” he said, laying the report on his superior’s desk. “And living right here in the city.”

“You’ve got an address?”

Becker nodded.

Wagner rose from his chair and strapped on his gun. “Let’s go get him and save eight people’s lives.”

~~~

Daily Post Prompt: Witness

MAGNIFYING GLASS CLUESToday’s one-word prompt fits right in with the theme of the new novelette I’m currently working on. It is book number 2 in The Simon Stone Detective Trilogy. Some of you will remember Simon because I actually wrote the first book in the series (Innocent Until Proven Guilty) right here on this blog. That book will be available as an e-book on Amazon in September, and book # 2 will be out before Christmas. So I thought I’d offer Chapter One of the second book as a teaser — and as my response to the prompt: witness.

(One small note: If you have not read book # 1, what you read here will include information that may spoil the ending of the first book for you. So just be forewarned.)


CHAPTER ONE

Stanford Brooks sat at a table in a private study carrel on the second floor of the municipal library, submerged in his favorite historical era. Suddenly he felt a stabbing pain in the back of his neck. Letting out a small grunt, he started to lift his right arm, intending to place his hand on the source of pain to discover the cause. But before he could complete the act, a gloved hand covered his nose and mouth.

Ordinarily, being a big man, he would have used his size to struggle against such an action, but his mind had grown fuzzy and his throat was beginning to constrict. He tried to turn his head and groaned beneath the heavy hand, but it was a weak sound, due to the weakening condition of his whole body. In the next second, everything went gray, then black, and without another conscious thought, he fell forward across his book.

A faint snap sounded behind him, followed within seconds by the merest whisper of wood touching wood at the closing of the carrel door. Silence then reigned in the halls of the library’s second floor, and business as usual continued at the circulation desk downstairs.
___________

On the other side of the city, Detective Simon Stone, deep in thought about the events of his day, walked to his apartment door and slipped his key into the lock as usual. But, suddenly, nothing was “usual” at all, because when he turned the key, there was no resistance. Every nerve came to attention, and he reached inside his jacket for his Glock. He had no doubt he’d locked the door when he’d left for work at 6:00 a.m.

His mind rapidly clicked off the possibilities: petty burglar, ex-con bent on revenge, a hit man under orders from any number of drug lords he’d ticked off over the past several years. As one part of his mind sorted through the options, another part tried to make the best guess as to where inside the apartment he’d most likely find the intruder.

When he’d settled on his plan of action, he eased the door open silently, crouching, and sweeping his gun arm left to right as he panned the entire living room. No one in sight, but immediately, he heard sounds in the kitchen. He tilted his head, listening: the clatter of dishes rang out against the background of running water. He shook his head, confused. He’d never known a burglar or a hit man who cleaned up the kitchen before committing his crime.

Simon took a deep breath and let it out slowly. That sixth sense that made him one of the sharpest detectives on the force told him all was well, but the fact that someone was in his apartment who had not been invited kept him vigilant. He moved on cat feet to the kitchen door, and just before giving the connecting swing door a shove with his foot, he heard the humming. His visitor was humming “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”

Well, that cleared away all questions. He knew only one person who hummed that stalwart Lutheran hymn as she worked: Aunt Prissy – not a dangerous criminal, but a force to be reckoned with all the same. A hearty sigh of relief rushed through him, only to be shut off by the irritation he felt at his aunt’s irresponsible behavior. He mulled over the possibilities of dealing with the situation.

At seventy-one, Aunt Prissy had lived long enough to think she knew best about most things and to feel brave enough to take on the world. A self-appointed amateur detective in her hometown, she didn’t shy away from practicing her gift for picking locks. However, she did make sure she practiced only on family and friends. He’d lectured and lectured, to no affect, so maybe now was an excellent time for an object lesson. He’d go ahead and kick open the door and yell, “Freeze!”

He didn’t want to point his gun at her, of course, and he quietly eased it back into his shoulder holster. As he did so, he started questioning the plan because he certainly didn’t want to frighten her enough to give her a heart attack or something. But she was in excellent health, so maybe ─

“Simon, for heaven’s sake stop standing outside the kitchen door!” He sucked in a quick breath, noticing at just that moment that the humming had stopped. She spoke again, still from inside the kitchen. “You’re probably thinking you’d like to kick open the door and frighten me half to death to teach me not to break into your apartment, but you’ll be wasting your breath, dear.” On the other side of the door, Simon just threw up his hands and looked straight up, as if to ask a higher power what on earth he could do about such a ridiculous situation. “Get on in here,” his aunt said, now. “I’ve got all your favorites ready to go onto the table.”

Simon gave up. He gently pushed through the swing door and looked at his aunt. She was busy placing bowls and platters of food onto the table, but she looked up and smiled at him. Her still-bright blue eyes – the mirror image of his own – nailed him instantly, and the mischief in them was his undoing. He laughed out loud and crossed the kitchen in two long strides to take her into his arms in a bear hug.

She finally leaned back and looked into his eyes. “Hello, Nephew,” she said, her own eyes twinkling again. Simon stepped away a little, still grinning at her, “Hello, Aunt Prissy. To what do I owe this most unexpected pleasure? You didn’t even hint in your last card or e-mail that you were considering a visit.”

“I know, dear,” she said, at the same time setting the salt and pepper shakers on the table and motioning to one of the chairs. “Sit down, and I’ll say grace, and then we can talk while we eat.”

They both sat, and once Priscilla had blessed the food with prayer, she started passing him bowls and platters. “I just felt I wanted to see how you’re doing,” she said now.

“You’ve e-mailed me and asked that question at least three times in the past several months – and I’ve e-mailed you back that I was fine.”

“E-mail? Phooey! I can’t see your eyes and your expressions on an e-mail. So I decided I’d like to make another visit, and that would tell me a lot more than any computer letter.”

Simon chuckled. “There just isn’t much of anything to tell, Aunt Prissy.”

“Simon, how are you really doing?”

He shrugged his shoulders. “About as well as normal, I guess.”

“Now, what kind of answer is that, for heaven’s sake? What’s normal? There’s absolutely nothing normal about a detective falling in love with a murder suspect who’s under his investigation!”

He looked sideways at her but kept cutting his meat. “Thanks for rubbing it in.”

“You know better than that. I’m not rubbing anything in. I’m merely pointing out that you have nothing to gauge what’s’ normal in this situation. And that being the case, you should be free to allow yourself to feel any number of things that might seem weird to an average person.”

“So you’re saying I’m not average either, huh?” he asked, but there was a hint of a smile on his lips.

“Well, in my humble opinion, you’ve always been above average – ever since you were a child – but that’s beside the point. Have you heard from her since she went to prison?”

Simon shook his head, and stopped chewing long enough to answer. “No. I can’t imagine anything to be gained by continuing to communicate with her.”

“Do you still have strong feelings for her?’

Simon sat back in his chair, thinking, weighing his words. “It may sound surprising, after only eight months, but I don’t seem to have any feelings for her one way or the other.” He shrugged. “I’m at least smart enough to know that the person I thought I was in love with didn’t really exist. She was a figment of my own imagination, based on pretense and deception, both of which Deanna was a master at.”

“No question there.”

He got up to refill his coffee cup and came back to the table with the pot, adding a little to his aunt’s cup as well. As he sat back down, he said, “And I have to admit that it’s something of a relief to feel nothing for a while. All that emotion is wearing on a person, you know.” He managed a grin as he spoke the last words, and his aunt grinned back.

“Yes, having been very much in love with your uncle I can testify to the energy required to love and be loved in return. And, of course, my feelings for Mitch are not at that level just yet, but even in that relationship, there’s a huge investment of the inner man necessary to make and keep it healthy and happy.”

“How is your favorite police chief?”

“Oh, pretty much the way you remember him: calm, collected, and easy-going – well, except when I’m working on a case that is.” She shook her head a little. “He does get a little steamed up and un-relaxed when he starts worrying about me. But I keep telling him that I’m a grown woman who had to take care of herself for ten years before meeting him, and he’s just going to have to face the fact that I’m not going to become a meek little garden club member who stays at home pampering plants when life’s going on outside in the real world. And he might as well give up worrying because it won’t do him or me either one any good.”

Simon laughed. “I bet you give him that speech about once a month.”

She smiled. “Well I do try to change the words around a little from time to time, but, yes, I do manage to say it often. Bless his heart; eventually, it will sink in, and he’ll get used to letting me live my life my own way.”

As she spoke, she got up from the table, taking her plate and Simon’s to the sink, and as she returned with two servings of German chocolate cake, the phone rang.

Simon got up and walked over to the wall phone. “Hello.”

“Simon, I’m probably interrupting your dinner,” the voice said on the other end of the line.

“Oh hi, Mac. No matter about dinner. What’s up?”

“We’ve just taken a call from the city library director. She found a man dead, slumped over a table in one of the study carrels on the second floor. No obvious reason for death, but natural causes seem questionable since the man’s known for running in local marathons and seemed to be in great health. There’s an ugly red swelling and some bruising on one side of his neck. Sounded suspicious enough that I sent Peterson over. I know you’re off duty for twenty-four hours, and I wouldn’t have bothered you tonight except for the fact that the librarian identified the man as Stanford Brooks.”

“What!”

“That’s right, and since he’s the primary witness in the case you’ve worked so hard on, I thought you’d want to stick your nose in on this investigation.”

“You thought right, Mac. And I’m grateful. Will Peterson have any objections?”

“I told him I felt you needed to be kept in the loop on this one. The fact that the trial starts next week makes this more suspicious than usual. We need to put some extra effort into making sure we don’t have some loose ends out there we didn’t know about. Peterson agreed.”

“Thanks, Mac. I’ll get right over there.” …………..


To participate in today’s prompt, visit the Daily Post site and get the details.

 

 

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Where should this story go from here???

MAGNIFYING GLASS CLUESKindergarten was a lot of fun. I made several friends there. I can’t say that I learned a whole lot because my parents had taught me to read books far beyond my age level and to add, subtract, and count by 2’s, 5’s, and 10’s long before I walked into the classroom at Harvard elementary school. But the joy of that initial year of getting together five days a week with twenty-five other kids my own age and sharing our thoughts and imaginations — not to mention our lunches — was an experience I still treasure.

That’s why, when Sabrina McKluckey called me last Monday evening and told me she had searched for me on Google and tracked me down because she wanted to reconnect after all these years, I was more than happy to arrange a meeting. Sabrina had been my best friend in kindergarten – from day one – but she and I actually had more in common that that. We had gone through all six grades of elementary together in the same classrooms. By junior high, though, my family had moved to a new town, and I lost track of Sabrina.

In fact, I lost track of all my early classmates. My family moved again before I had finished high school, and that broke some more relationships for me, not to mention affecting my grades during my junior year. When I got to college, I finally stayed in one place four whole years, so I did manage to make a couple close friends who are still close today. But when I picked up the phone and found Sabrina on the other end of the line, she started talking about things that we had done in school together, and, suddenly, years just sort of slipped away, and I was transported to a happier time and place.

Now, it’s not that I don’t have a good life. I guess I’d call it a basically “happy” life — depending on how one defines happiness. But once we get to the age of responsibility — college days are gone, and we’re struggling to make good on that first job so that the landlord won’t kick us out of our first apartment, and so relatives who come to visit will find more than a carton of milk and a can of sardines in the frig — things just aren’t as much fun. And for me, now well past the first job and four years into my alternate vocation (having nixed the nine-to-five high finance job I’d landed right out of grad school), life was a passel of everyday bills and aggravations, occasionally relieved by an evening with friends or a week-end holiday.

So, back to Sabrina: She said she now lived about three hours from me, so we arranged to meet at a restaurant about half way between our homes and catch up on each other’s lives over a long lunch. When I arrived, she was already at the table. I figured I wouldn’t recognize her, but to my surprise, she really did look the same: Long dark brown hair, perky nose with a sprinkling of freckles, and a sunny smile. She was slender and prettier in a mature sort of way, but definitely still looked like the Sabrina of my memory.

My hair was still the ebony color it had always been, but I had worn it quite long in those school years, and now I had a slick, short cut that lay close to my head. My blue eyes were still the same, of course, and I was moderate weight for my size, so I was pretty sure she’d consider that I was still recognizable.

And sure enough, when I was within six feet of the table, she turned her head and saw me, and jumped up to greet me, calling out my nickname. “Tessy!” She held out her arms and hugged me as I got to the table. I was glad there weren’t a lot of other people close to our table, but I did hug her back very briefly and dropped into a chair as soon as I could. “Oh, you look good!” she said. “And you really haven’t changed much except for your hairstyle.”

“I recognized you right away too,” I answered, and at that moment our waitress approached to give us menus.

Over lunch, we reminisced, but during the conversation, I felt Sabrina was a nervous and unsure of herself somehow. I couldn’t think why she should be, so I didn’t ask right away. But by the time we were to dessert and coffee, I was sure there must be something troubling on her mind, so I decided to just be honest.

“Sabrina, correct me if I’m out of line, but I keep getting the feeling that you’re agitated or nervous about something, and I’m just wondering if you wanted to talk to me about something besides our past. Is there anything else on  your mind that you’re hesitant to bring up?”

She looked at me earnestly, nibbled on her lip, looked away, took a sip of water, and then heaved a sigh and looked me right in the eye. “Yes there is, Tess. I wasn’t sure if I would bring it up or not, and after we sat down together, I thought that I’d been foolish to even think about involving you in this … situation, I guess you’d call it … but since I’ve gotten you here and you can obviously see that there’s a problem, I might as well go ahead.”

“If something’s going on that I can help with, please tell me,” I said, not really sure I was all that eager to get involved in someone else’s problems, but feeling more or less obligated to at least act as if I were willing.

She picked up her fork and sort of rolled it around in her fingers as she concentrated on her thoughts and then started to talk. “When I said I had Googled you, it was actually for a little more than just wanting to reconnect and talk over old times. I had heard from some of the other people in town who had kept in touch with your parents that  you are a private detective now. And … well —” She paused and looked me right in the eye again.

“Yes, that’s correct,” I said. “Are you saying you need a private detective?”

She glanced down at the fork she was still twisting in her hands and then back up at me. “Yes,” she said in a rush of breath. “Yes. I want to hire you.” Then she leaned closer and whispered. “I need to find out who’s ……………..”

Please go down to the “Comments” section and tell me how YOU think this last sentence should end. I’ve thought about going two or three different directions with this story, but I cant make up my mind.  I’d like to know what readers think. What direction would you like this story to go?  In your own imagination, what is Sabrina’s problem? Maybe your suggestion will give me the next paragraph — and the next chapter.

 

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Wordle 219 Writing Challenge: ‘The Case of the Copy-Cat Crimes’

I just discovered a writing challenge called “Wordle,” which you will find at “The Sunday Whirl.”  It involves writing a poem or short piece of fiction that uses the words in a prescribed group for each week. Writers can use any form of the words that fit their stories/poems. Below, you’ll see the green box with the group of words for this week. If you’d like to take part in the challenge, just follow the link to “Wordle 219” for October 4, 2015 and join in.  My story is below the box of words.

WORDLE 219

THE CASE OF THE COPY-CAT CRIMES

Detective Becker pressed his left hand against his temple. It was tender from the pain where a migraine was threatening, but he had to go over this list of people who had received threats in the past month. The letters had all been made out in the same way: typed words that had been cut and pasted – one word at a time – onto a black sheet of paper and mailed in red envelopes. He’d sworn he’d figure out the nexus they shared that had made them victims of such a hateful attack, but time wasn’t on his side any longer, because the first two people on the list had already been killed.

His buzzer sounded, and his secretary reported that he had a call waiting on line one: his superior, Detective Holmes. “Yes sir,” Becker spoke into the phone. “What can I do for you?”

“The press has gotten wind of the fact that eight other people have received threatening letters. They’re pushing for a story, but, of course, we can’t tell them anything that could disrupt the investigation. I just wanted you to be forewarned that they’ll be waiting outside the front door when you leave the office.”

“Thanks for the warning. I slip out the basement entrance.”

“Have you figured out any connection yet between the two who are dead and the other eight?”

“I think I may have, Sir. All of these people served on a jury together about fifteen years ago. The decision of that jury was unanimous and resulted in the death sentence for the man on trial.”

“Who?”

“Malcom Leiberman.”

Dead silence on the other end of the line caused Becker to stay quiet and wait. He could hear that the wind outside had started blowing harder, and he knew the storm that had been predicted was almost upon them. Finally, Holmes responded: “You know, of course, that Leiberman was convicted of perpetrating a series of murders after sending out threatening letters to his victims.”

Becker sucked in his breath. “No sir … no, I haven’t had time to research the case yet. But that’s too weird.”

“Yes,” replied Holmes. “And now I think I know who we’re looking for. His brother swore he’d get revenge. But then he got sick with some disease that the doctors said was incurable, and he was hospitalized for years. I guess everybody forgot about his threats. I know I did. But we need to find out if he’s still alive, and if so …”

“I’m on it, Sir,” Becker said. “I’ll call you back as soon as I have the information.”

Two hours later, Becker walked into Holmes’ office with a medical report. “He’s alive all right,” he said, laying the report on his superior’s desk. “And living right here in the city.”

“You’ve got an address?”

Becker nodded.

Holmes rose from his chair and strapped on his gun. “Let’s go get him and save eight people’s lives.”

~~~

‘The Daily Post’ 10-Minute Free-Write # 2

MAGNIFYING GLASS  - BOOK PREVIEWHmmm. “The Daily Post” suggests that we free-write for 10 minutes again this week – about anything. Okey-dokey (Is that the correct spelling?). I think maybe I’ll take advantage of this time to introduce you to the delightful heroine of my newest book – now in progress. Her name is Priscilla Covington, and she is a 71-year-old amateur detective. She stars in my story, Prissy On The Prowl.

Her best friend, Magdalene Mitchell, and she are widows who have recently started dating again, but Prissy (whether fortunately or unfortunately, we do not yet know) is going steady with the chief of police. Now, you can probably guess that he does not approve of her getting involved in crime, but, committed to being true to herself before she can be true to anyone else, Prissy just cannot comply with Chief Andrew’s wishes all the time.

Prissy’s best companion in her forays into crime-solving is her beloved Basset Hound, Jemimah. Now, Jemimah is a sweetheart, and absolutely loves Washington Cherry ice cream – by far her favorite treat. She would never stand in Prissy’s way when there’s any sleuthing to be done. In fact, as the story progresses, she seems to be headed for the job of leading her mistress right into the midst of the felon’s lair.

Now, even though I am nowhere near finished with this book, we do know that Prissy and Jemimah will most assuredly come out of the story alive. After all, how can there be a series if we lose the heroine in the first book, right? So I’ll just leave you with this little teaser about the new novel, and I’ll try to give you little updates as we go along.

In the meantime, why not treat yourself to some Washington Cherry ice cream and start getting into the mood for a good cozy mystery. Time has run out, so I must be done.

~

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I Recommend “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” Series

 

NO. 1 LADIES DET. COVERI seldom post reviews of books that I am reading – not because I do not think they are worthy of a post – but mostly because I am always reading and enjoy so many different genres by so many different authors that if I let myself do so, I would be posting about them all the time, rather than about other things. However, occasionally, I find myself enjoying a book so very much that I am just compelled to share it – or to share a series that is special to me.

I have posted a time or two about the Miss Read books – authored by the late Dora Saint – and I talked about how those books take the reader right into villages, the homes, and the lives of the charming and endearing characters. I became a bona-fide citizen of the fictional villages of Thrush Green and Fairacre through living in the books of the two series by those names.

More recently – and currently – I find myself in Botswana – deeply and cheerfully involved in the lives of one Precious Ramotswe and Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni, as well as all the other colorful people who populate their lives. I met Precious and Mr. J. L. B in Alexander McCall Smith’s book, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. That particular book eventually became a series of 15 books (as of the date of my post). The original book has been made into a movie, and the BBC eventually picked up at least some of the series for TV production.

The series shares the life of Mma Precious Ramotswe, who, after losing her father and inheriting all of his cattle, sells the cattle to get money enough to open a private detective agency. Precious has always been gifted with the ability to figure out mysteries and to find people and things, and after acquiring some education in the subject and earning a certificate, she sets out to open her business. From that point on, the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency provides the backdrop for all the colorful, lovable, entertaining people and events that carry the reader from one book to another.

I will have to admit that when I first picked up book #1 and started reading, the African names and idiomatic expressions seemed to make reading difficult. As interesting as the story sounded, I thought perhaps it would just not be worth trying to figure out all the correct pronunciations enough to make the reading flow smoothly. However, I discovered the movie online and watched it. That experience brought the language to life for me – and allowed me to grasp the unique beauty in the lyrical, almost musical, rhythm of it. (There are audio versions of the books that will do that as well.) Once I had heard the language spoken, I found it totally delightful. From that point on, I was able to pick up the books again and read with no difficulty.

I think it might be of interest to future readers of the series to note that the books have become so popular around the world that there are sites online devoted to explaining the pronunciation of the names and words used, as well as some of the social protocol that influences the way people speak to and interact with one another.

One of the most obvious and affecting things that I noticed concerning the characters, who are very real and true to life – according to all the research I have done – is that the people of Botswana think of each other and speak to each other with enormous respect. Showing respect seems to affect every part of how they speak and interact with each other and with strangers, and I can’t help but compare that to the way so many of the people of the United States speak to and treat each other. We could learn some lessons.

But, overall, the beauty of the series is that the characters do live their lives in a very realistic way – loving, caring, sharing joys and sorrows – and although the stories revolve around some degree of mystery and investigation (it is about a ladies’ detective agency after all), the whole thrust of the books is positive and life-affirming on every level. The basic, everyday wisdom that Precious and her family and friends share in thought and in dialogue help the reader see life situations at ground level – in a way that strips away all the pretense and prejudice and just lets honesty shine through. Readers often find themselves thinking: “That’s just exactly how I feel about that situation, and she has put it into perfect words.” And readers feel a sense of hope and well-being as they move through these stories and when they close each book at the end of its final chapter.

I can’t help but compare the series – as I have the Miss Read series – to the long-running American television series The Andy Griffith Show. That show has broken all kinds of records as a result of running successfully for so many years – first in its original sit-com schedule and then through decades of re-runs right up to the present day. It’s still one of the best-loved TV series that ever existed, and it’s because it tells the story of a hometown full of real-life, imperfect, but lovable people who spend their lives sharing the good and the bad with their family and friends, always focusing each other on what is wholesome and valuable in life.

Yes, I know there are thousands of readers out there who “say” they want what they call “realism,” but who mean they want to read books and see movies that focus on the ugly, the destructive, the deadly, the evil in this life. But during my 66 years on this earth, I’ve experienced just about all the good and bad that this life has to offer – both in people and in situations – and I can tell you that the vast majority of people who pick up a book or sit down to a movie – if they are honest – are hoping to find a little bit of a reminder that there really is something a little better than the bad they’ve experienced so far. They’re hoping that they will get a glimpse of a possible level of life that is just a little higher, a little finer, a little happier than what they see in the norm. They want to see heroes – men and women who have that special “something” that makes them just a little bit more noble, more loving, and more victorious than the mediocre that surrounds the average person 24/7.

I’ve always been aware that, as a writer, I have a choice to make: I can take people down to the lowest levels of life, where there dwells no happiness and no hope. Or I can take them up – by getting them to look up – to the highest levels of life and the possibilities of making the world a better place through how we live and love. That’s why I choose to write about heroes and heroines who are just a tiny bit larger than life because they are focused on what is good and true and lovely – and, yes – available – if we will but make up our minds to have it. I see that component coming through strongly in the books that I have read (so far) in The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. That’s why I can’t seem to stop reading until I get to the last book – and I’m hoping that by then, Mr. Alexander McCall Smith will have written more.

In book # 9 of the series, The Miracle at Speedy Motors, Precious Ramotswe tells her adopted son, “We are all the same. All the same people. Bushmen, San, whatever you want to call them, and us, Batswana. White people too. Everybody. Inside us, we are exactly the same.” (Alexander McCall Smith, The Miracle at Speedy Motors, Pantheon Books, p. 35). That’s one of the main assurances the reader takes from this series. Inside us, we are all the same. That’s why it’s so easy to fall in love with the people of Botswana. Whether the reader even knows enough geography to point to the country on the map or not, he feels a kinship with its people – and thereby with all the peoples of the world – as he lives in these books.

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