The No. 1 girls' detective agency

Apr 15 2012 - 7:24am

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"THE GREAT CAKE MYSTERY." By Alexander McCall Smith. Anchor Books. 7 and up. $6.99.

For all the fans of Precious Ramotswe, Botswana's No. 1 lady detective -- and there are legions -- and for all the kids who think it would be fun to solve mysteries, "The Great Cake Mystery" delivers a sweet, fun story about how Precious got her start detecting.

There's a thief stalking the school where Precious is a student -- a thief with a sweet tooth. The thief is stealing cakes, bread with jam and other sweet treats from the children's lunches. The other children focus on a fellow student, assuming that because his love of sweets and habitually sugary fingers, he must be the thief.

Precious knows not to jump to conclusions -- and she also finds that knowing something and proving it are two different things indeed.

The story is straight-forward and simple, written with the same love for Botswana that infuses McCall Smith's books for adults (the latest of which, "The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection," is also out this month) and illustrated with charming woodcut-style images.

The lessons -- don't judge unfairly, stand up for what's right -- and the clever ruse Precious uses to solve the case are perfectly written for a younger cadre of readers. But that doesn't mean Precious's adult fans won't enjoy this book as well.

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