The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
By Alexander McCall Smith
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Wayward daughters. Missing Husbands. Philandering partners. Curious conmen. If you’ve got a problem, and no one else can help you, then pay a visit to Precious Ramotswe, Botswana’s only – and finest – female private detective. Her methods may not be conventional, and her manner not exactly Miss Marple, but she’s got warmth, wit and canny intuition on her side.Tweet
Thank you to the reading agency for providing Macclesfield Library Reading Group with ten copies of The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. It has been 20 years since this book was originally published and the members of our group who had read it before were only too happy to enjoy the book again. Some of us had never read any Alexander McCall Smith previously and this was our introduction, we all unanimously agreed on what an enjoyable uplifting read this was! In our discussion we found ourselves talking fondly of Mma. Ramotswe, Mr Maketoni and Grace Makutsi as if they were real people we had befriended through their stories.
Whilst this book is a pleasant read it touches skillfully upon feminist issues, attitudes towards women, violence, crime and the national identity of Africa both the proud and positive and the sometimes unsettling traditions. All written with a clear love of Botswana that paints a bright and sincere picture of the country and its culture. Here are some of our thoughts on the book;
“A wonderful story of duty and love, friendship and loss. I loved the African background and independence and strong-mindedness of Mma Ramotswe so much that I have bought the second book in the series.”
“A deserved classic. The strong emphasis on feminist issues is more pertinent than ever!”
“Fabulous. A strong practical woman who is happy in her own skin. Great stories.”
“Loved it. A fabulous book. Gentle, wry, thought provoking, leaving one with faith in humanity.”
“This book was really interesting. Fabulous Mma. Ramotswe lady detective was very brave and intelligent.”
This is an oldie but a goodie. I read this when it first came out and enjoyed it then. I have reread it now and it's still a delightful page turner. The writing appears simple, as do the stories, but there is another much more insightful layer underneath the charming simplicity. The stories reflect life in Botswana, but also life in general. Precious, more formally known as Mma Ramotswe, is the No. 1 ladies' detective and uses common sense to solve problems that everyday people face. She often refers to a manual she bought on how to be a detective. The writing is quaint and endearing, and subtle humour is used throughout. The book is based around a series of stories - the people who come to Precious, asking her to help them solve their day-to-day problems. She always seems to give good advice or find a solution, or a culprit, in the various problems she is asked to solve. She works calmly and cleverly using her good intuition. A classic read.
So this is where it all began. When Mma Ramotswe’s father dies and leaves her some money she decides that she wants to set up her own detective agency. As there are no other lady detectives in Botswana, she chooses the name “The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency” and this is how her adventures started. This first book is a collection of her early cases, interspersed with a great deal of background information about both Botswana and the lady herself. And a very fine character she is too.
There is an awful lot to like about this book. The characters are wonderful, each and every one of them – stars of the show, criminals, clients, friends and neighbours. They are all well developed and have their own individual traits and personalities. The cases that she deals with are interesting and her powers of deduction legendary, resulting in intelligent, quirky and creative solutions to the problems she is given. The sights and sounds of Botswana are described in great detail, almost evoking emotion in their intensity. The book is written in the style of a collection of short stories, each covering one of her cases. However it is not quite like that, in fact it is better because there is a continuity that flows through the whole book. It is easy to read and the writing flows well.
I somehow missed out on this the first time round. I have read two other AMS books, but none are from this series. I have also heard him speak and he is a highly intelligent, very eloquent man. This is reflected in his books.
If you missed out on this book first time round (as I did), I would strongly recommend not making the same mistake twice!! If you are looking for an easy, but thoroughly enjoyable read, give it a go. I will certainly be reading more of Mma Ramotswe’s cases, hopefully many more.
A very good, easy read. Lovely characters and lots of descriptive prose about Botswana. Having heard Alexander McCall Smith (a very intelligent and erudite man) speak on a couple of occasions I was expecting the book to be more challenging and this is the only thing that would have improved it for me - it was a bit too much of a holiday read.
This is a charming, easy read filled with gentle philosophy. Mr McCall Smith is such a fabulous storyteller and whilst he vividly describes Botswana he creates characters who are likeable and funny, who’s troubles and triumphs are completely relatable. Highly recommended feel good fiction
It was good to be back in Botswana! I loved this book when it was first published and thoroughly enjoyed it this time around. McCall Smith has a fine way with words and deftly draws his characters. Ma Ramotswe grows in stature (if that is indeed possible) with each book and I have found her to be an astute judge of character through her adventurous detectective travels. Read these books slowly as they are short but should be savoured.