The Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall-Smith

ladiesdetectiveagencyI’ve heard a lot of praise for this series of books about a woman detective in Botswana, but didn’t pick up Book 1 to read it until this summer’s vacation. It’s a hard book to categorize, because it’s about a detective, but it’s not really a mystery novel in the typical sense.  It’s a novel about a strong and memorable character, Precious Ramotswe, and it’s more the story of how she comes to be a detective and establishes herself in her rather unusual career.  Along the way, Mma Ramotswe solves a few mysteries — some more successfully than others — but she doesn’t have the almost uncanny perceptiveness of the traditional detective-novel hero (or heroine). She’s smart and intuitive and has a good knowledge of people and her community, and those are the skills she uses to build her agency. 

I don’t know what the other novels in the series are like — whether they are structured more like traditional mysteries or, like this one, are more episodic stories of Precious Ramotswe’s life — but I would definitely read another.  The evocation of a modern-day African community and its colourful characters makes this a unique and enjoyable book.

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3 Comments

Filed under Fiction -- mystery

3 responses to “The Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall-Smith

  1. This one didn’t work for me at all, though I know it got great reviews, and many of the readers I most respect loved it.

    I did love how she captured the sense of an African folk tale, but in the end, I didn’t like the episodic feel at all. I don’t like short stories (if I invest the time to get to know and like a character, I want to spend some quality time with them!). I don’t like episodic fiction. I don’t like obvious morality tales. Hence, I don’t think I’m the target audience here.

  2. Oops. He. Apparently Smith is a man.

  3. I, on the other hand, loved this book and each one following it. I’ve even taught it in my Honors Literature class that focused on literature by Africans or about Africa. My students loved it too. If you liked the first book, you will definitely enjoy the others.

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