Mma Ramotswe and the Mystery of the Continuity Errors

9 February 2014 at 16:02 (Random Randomness) (, , , , )

I posted about a couple of continuity errors in my last post, and since I am reading the series again, this time I am taking notes. I am only up to book 3 at the moment, but I’ve already got a list for you. The widowed/forever single status confusion of Mr JLB Matekoni and Mma Makutsi, he did correct in later editions (although these late spouses don’t ever get any mention again).


Okay, here we go!

Book 1 — The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

  1. pg 61 — “Mma Makutsi was the widow of a teacher.” But throughout the rest of the series, it is stated that she has had no romance or any male interest in her life, with the exception of one line later in the series where this mysterious late husband is finally referenced.
  2. pg 78 –“…sent off for, and received, a manual on private detection.” This assumes she bought if from mail order, which doesn’t make so much sense, since in Limpopo Academy it is implied that she found a stray copy in a bargain bin.
  3. pg 86 — “Mma Ramotswe had known Mr J.L.B. Matekoni for years. He came from Mochudi…”
  4. pg 86 — “Mr J.L.B. Matekoni was forty five — ten years older than Mma Ramotswe…” Remember this. According to this line, Matekoni is 45, which would make Mma Ramotswe 35 at this point. (It was also just after this paragraph in the earlier editions where the original text said “and she had wondered why he had never married.” Later changed to “remarried”.)
  5. pg 105 — The book is called The Principles of Private Investigation by Clovis Andersen. It is never referred to by this title again.
  6. pg 150 — “Mma Ramotswe had been an eight-year-old girl then… and her heart filled with pride when she thought of all they had achieved in thirty short years.” Thirty years ago, she was eight? Would that not make her now 38, not 35?
  7. pg 229 — “She telephoned Tlokweng Speedy Motors… but the receptionist was out to lunch and he answered.” Who is this mysterious receptionist? She never appears again. In fact, in the third book, when Mma Makutsi starts managing the garage, it is clear that there is no office staff but Mr JLB Matekoni.

Book 2 — Tears of the Giraffe

  1. pg 3 — “When [Mr J.L.B. Matekoni] was a boy out at Molepolole…” But in book one, he is from Mochudi. Not the same place.
  2. pg 23 — “I lost my baby. He did not live.” He. Note that Mma Ramotswe’s late baby was male.
  3. pg 79 — “The girl is twelve and the boy is just five.” These are the ages of the foster children at this stage.
  4. pg 163 — Mma Ramotswe asks if the foster children have just come to live with Matekoni and he answers with “Yesterday.” Remember this timing. The day he took them in they were 12 and 5. It’s safe to assume they would also be 12 and 5 the next day, too.

Book 3 — Morality for Beautiful Girls

  1. pg 30 — The older apprentice refers to the younger apprentice as “Siletsi”: “… and I took the call, didn’t I, Siletsi?” I wasn’t sure if Siletsi was a name or some term of endearment, but it seems it is a name, at least according to this site (scroll down to the heading “Susan and John”). They often also refer to each other as “my brother” in the earlier books, eg page 181: “My brother here can finish this off.” They most certainly are not related, and in later books do not refer to each other in this way. I don’t know if the author originally had them as brothers, then changed it as their characters developed.
  2. pg 31 — “Mr J.L.B. Matekoni has not lost interest in his garage. And he is not an old man. He is just in his early forties…”. HOLD IT!!
  3. pg 51 — Government Man: “He is my brother by another mother. My father is old-fashioned and he had two wives and his mother was the younger.” So the government man and his brother do NOT have the same mother.
  4. pg 56 — “… that was the difference between being almost forty and being twenty eight. At almost forty — or even forty, if one were fussy about dates…” Mma Ramotswe is referring to her and Mma Makutsi’s ages. So it has been five years since the first book? Or two? It’s hard to tell, since Mma Ramotswe was either 35 or 38 in the first book. So we can safely say that at the very least, it’s been 2 years since the first book. Which would make Matekoni 47 at least. If Mma Ramotswe is now 40, that would make Matekoni 50, because it is stated very plainly in book 1 that there is a 10 year age gap between them. But it seems that not only has he not aged, he has also found some elixir of reverse-ageing since he is now in his early forties? Which I would assume would be between 40 and 44, as I would count 45 as mid-forties. Dude, I want some of this elixir of youth. I also vaguely remember Mma Makutsi’s age being given in the first book as either 25 or 26? I’ll have to look this one up.
  5. pg 62 — “And you, Mma. You are a clever lady. If you ever decide that you are tired of being a private detective, come and work for the Government. The Government needs women like you…” This was said to Mma Makutsi. What I want to know is, when she threw her hissy fit and resigned, why did she not take up this offer? It seems like the obvious thing to do.
  6. pg 79 — “It had been a month since the children had arrived from the orphanage.” We know the children came to live with Mma Ramotswe within a few daysof his taking them in from the orphanage. So it has been only ONE month since then, and we know that they were 12 and 5 at the time.
  7. pg 80 — Motholeli: “I am thirteen, almost fourteen. I have a brother, who is seven.” Wait, what? Sure, I can believe that her birthday occurred in this time, but she cannot be almost fourteen whichever way you look at it, and her brother could not age by 2 years within a month! What’s going on here? I mean, Mr J.L.B. Matekoni is getting younger, and these children are super-ageing.
  8. pg 146 — Government Man’s mother: “My husband is a very fine husband, and I have given him three sons.” ???? “… and then there is the one who lives here.” So hang on… They do have the same mother after all? What happened to this second wife who bore the younger son? Did she never exist, or is this poor old woman delusional enough into thinking that she gave birth to all three sons?
  9. pg 167 — “The old woman nodded at her. ‘This is my son,’ she said.” No one contradicts her, even though the rest of the family are there. Poor second wife, she’s been wiped from the family history completely.

Well, that’s as far as I’ve got. Three books in and we already have a long list of continuity errors, some even from the same book. This isn’t good enough. Come on Mr McCall Smith, this is lazy writing.

I’ll update this page as I re-read through the series.


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