One bright morning, Precious Ramotswe - head of Botswana's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency - receives a visitor: a woman from Australia. This woman asks Precious to take on a case: to find the nursemaid who raised her during her childhood in Botswana. The woman wants to thank her for being such an important part of her life. Precious has a history of successfully solving cases, but this one proves difficult and throws up a number of surprises and challenges.
Back in her office, next door to the Speedy Motors Garage on Twokleng Road, Precious also has a team to manage: Mr Polopetsi, a part-time science teacher and new assistant at the agency; she mentors Charlie, a former apprentice and young man too handsome and charming for his own good - a man who has gotten himself in deep water; and then there is Precious's tumultuous but heart-warming friendship with her co-director, the fiery Grace Makutsi.
Precious and Grace is a story about being a detective, the complexities of human nature, as well as lessons about gratitude and obligation.
"Forgiveness is often the solution," observes Precious Ramotswe toward the end of Smith's warmhearted, humane 17th No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency novel (after 2015's The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine). Mma Ramotswe is referring to the book's main case, which involves a Canadian woman in her late 30s, Susan, who spent her childhood years in Botswana and now wants to find Rosie, the nurse maid largely responsible for raising her. Mma Ramotswe places an ad in a Gaborone newspaper, which brings a woman who claims to be Rosie to the detective agency. Grace Makutsi, the agency's prickly codirector, suspects this Rosie is a fraud, while Mma Ramotswe senses something not quite right about Susan's quest. Meanwhile, the ladies deal with a couple of minor cases: their assistant Fanwell rescues a stray dog that needs a home, and Mr. Polepetsi, their sometime helper, becomes an unwitting pawn in a pyramid scheme involving cattle. As ever, Smith adroitly mixes gentle humor with important life lessons.