I’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.