The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
Goodreads Summary: Working in a mystery tradition that will cause genre aficionados to think of such classic sleuths as Melville Davisson Post’s Uncle Abner or Robert van Gulik’s Judge Dee, Alexander McCall Smith creates an African detective, Precious Ramotswe, who’s their full-fledged heir.
It’s the detective as folk hero, solving crimes through an innate, self-possessed wisdom that, combined with an understanding of human nature, invariably penetrates into the heart of a puzzle. If Miss Marple were fat and jolly and lived in Botswana–and decided to go against any conventional notion of what an unmarried woman should do, spending the money she got from selling her late father’s cattle to set up a Ladies’ Detective Agency–then you have an idea of how Precious sets herself up as her country’s first female detective.
Once the clients start showing up on her doorstep, Precious enjoys a pleasingly successful series of cases. But the edge of the Kalahari is not St. Mary Mead, and the sign Precious orders, painted in brilliant colors, is anything but discreet. Pointing in the direction of the small building she had purchased to house her new business, it reads “THE NO. 1 LADIES DETECTIVE AGENCY. FOR ALL CONFIDENTIAL MATTERS AND ENQUIRIES. SATISFACTION GUARANTEED FOR ALL PARTIES. UNDER PERSONAL MANAGEMENT.”
The solutions she comes up with, whether in the case of the clinic doctor with two quite different personalities (depending on the day of the week), or the man who had joined a Christian sect and seemingly vanished, or the kidnapped boy whose bones may or may not be those in a witch doctor’s magic kit, are all sensible, logical, and satisfying. Smith’s gently ironic tone is full of good humor towards his lively, intelligent heroine and towards her fellow Africans, who live their lives with dignity and with cautious acceptance of the confusions to which the world submits them. Precious Ramotswe is a remarkable creation, and The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency well deserves the praise it received from London’s Times Literary Supplement.
About Alexander McCall Smith
Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the international phenomenon The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie Series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, and the 44 Scotland Street series. He is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and has served on many national and international bodies concerned with bioethics. He was born in what is now known as Zimbabwe and he was a law professor at the University of Botswana. He lives in Scotland.
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My views: I have been to Botswana and back, with this book. Refreshing mystery tales, almost like short stories in themselves. I took an instant liking to the character of Mma Ramotswe, self-made, determined woman who opens up a ladies detective agency which was unheard of in that town. With her intuition and thinking abilities, she solves one case after another with ease. The book takes you in from the very start with a case to solve. Though I did not like the change from the case to learning about the life of Precious’s father and her childhood, I realized that it is important for the building up of a character and took it in my stride. Later, this proved to be beneficial. I have always enjoyed mysteries, especially those where I get to think with the detective and give my mind a jog to solve it. I ended up doing that a lot with this book.
I loved the character of the little Indian girl who ends up conning Ramotswe. And was I glad to hear her nod to marriage in the end. I loved her so much to wish for her to have a companion and a worthy match at that.
*End of Spoiler*
I loved to solve mysteries and be a detective since childhood, whenever something disappeared from our home, I would be the one to find it. The only case where it wasn’t found was when I was the one who had hidden it in the first place.
A lovely, short book that finished even before you realize it since you are so engrossed solving the mysteries.
I also picked up some great quotes from the book-
“It was time to take the pumpkin out of the pot and eat it. In the final analysis, that was what solved these big problems of life. You could think and think and get nowhere, but you still had to eat your pumpkin. That brought you down to earth. That gave you a reason for going on. Pumpkin.”
‘I am just a tiny person in Africa, but there is a place for me, and for everybody, to sit down on this earth and touch it and call it their own.’
‘You can go through life and make new friends every year-every month practically-but there was never any substitute for those friendships of childhood that survive into adult years. Those are the ones in which we are bound to one another with hoops of steel.’