Jul 18, 2009

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (Book 1) by Alexander McCall Smith

I know I'm a little late in reading this series, considering it started in 1998, but in my quest to read more mysteries this year, I knew I wanted to begin a series and I'd heard so much about THE NO. 1 LADIES' DETECTIVE AGENCY that it was an easy choice. Currently, there are 10 books in the series, so I have a ways to go.

What I discovered right away is this isn't your typical mystery book. And Mma Ramotswe isn't your typical private detective. The beginning of this book introduces Precious Ramotswe to us, her family background and how she became the first lady detective in Botswana. Then she moves on to describe what it was like in those first days at her agency.

Once she gets her office set up and her secretary hired, she doesn't have to wait long for clients to start requesting her services. Initially, it's wives wondering about the goings-on of their husbands, a father who wants to know where his teenage daughter is spending her time after school and a few cases of thievery. Mma Ramotswe is fortunate to be able to resolve these cases quickly and the word soon spreads that she is a successful lady detective. However, there was one case that, even when first approached by the client, she doubted she would be able to solve. This bothered Mma Ramotswe and was always in the back of her mind. It was the case of a missing boy who was presumed dead.

I'm not going to say anymore about the cases, so as to not give anything away to those who haven't yet read the book . What I will say is with each case Mma Ramotswe takes on, she relies on her morals and her own life experiences to get to the truth of matters. Mma Ramotswe is a strong, independent woman who isn't afraid to be on her own. She has good friends and has made a comfortable life for herself and she believes her life is full - but is it really?

Alexander McCall Smith's writing in this book is wonderful. It's different than anything I've ever read. It's a very simple writing style that allows the story and it's characters to take center stage. This isn't a deep, mysterious read, rather, it's a simple, pleasant reminder that there is good out there. Mma Ramotswe never uses violence to solve her cases - she uses her wits and intellect as she moves from case to case.

Here's one of my favorite passages that gives a hint of the overall tone of the book -

Mma Ramotswe smiled at her old friend. 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.

She reached out and touched Dr. Maketsi on the arm, gently, as old friends will sometimes do when they have nothing more to say. ~ page 221

I am so glad I've decided to read this series of books. I love the fact that the story is based in Botswana in Africa. Not only is it a refreshing change, it's very interesting to learn about this land. Through Mma Ramotswe, Mr. Mcall Smith's love for Africa is ever present and contagious.

The next book in the series is TEARS OF THE GIRAFFE and I'm hopeful I'll be just as pleased with it as I was with this first book. Click here for a podcast of an interview with Alexander McCall Smith from Amazon.

Author: Alexander McCall Smith
Publisher: Originally published by Polygon Edinburgh, in 1998. Published in trade paperback by Random House in 2002
Pages: 235
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


  1. I loved this book too! You're right the author's love for Africa shines. Whenever I read a book in the series, it makes me want to go there.

  2. This is a wonderful series. I like the gentleness of the characters and the storylines are very interesting. I always crave tea when I read these books as Mma Ramotswe is always having a pot of bush tea (roobius...vanilla roobius is one of my favorite teas). I am not done with the series and need to catch up.

  3. I'm behind too! I just purchased this book a few months ago and look forward to the series. Your review was great and I can't wait to read itmyself!

  4. The thing for that set this series apart I felt was the it focused more on people not necessarily the crime. It is a cute series.

    Have you seen the tv series?

  5. Lisa... I want to read this! I really do!

  6. Stacybuckeye: I'm glad you liked my review and I hope you get the chance to read the book soon!

    Caspette: No, I haven't seen the TV series. I've heard some people say they love the books but don't care for the TV show. I'm content to stick with the books.

  7. I'm so glad that you liked this one Lisa. My book club has been reading this series together and it is loved by all of us. If only we could get to Africa! lol

  8. Bravo Lisa Bravo!!! This is my favorite review this week!! You captured this book perfectly!!

  9. I haven't read any of the books in this series, but I've heard good things about them. I think I'll have to give them a try.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  10. I haven't read him yet. I need to break down and get the first one. I've heard good things about the series.


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