"A Song of Comfortable Chairs," by Alexander McCall Smith. (Pantheon, 240 pages, $27.)
That title could apply to virtually all of the 23 cozy, lyrical novels McCall Smith has written about Botswana's Precious Ramotswe but it's particularly applicable to this one, in which the subject is frequently furnishings.
Colleague Grace Makutsi's husband runs a furniture store that will go under unless Precious and Grace can figure out how his deals on armchairs are being undercut by a shady competitor. Back at the office, Grace dreams of a bigger role at the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and, to go with it, plans to have her desk enlarged so it outranks her boss'. They're the kinds of low-stakes problems that the "Ladies" usually tackle — if anyone gets murdered in Gaborone, we never hear about it — but, as in all of the books featuring the resourceful women, the cases hint at sweetly sensible lessons about learning to get along with each other.
Chris Hewitt is a Star Tribune critic.