The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
Alexander McCall Smith
If you haven’t read The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency and you’re looking for a nice, heart-warming mystery, I highly recommend this book, the first in a series of twenty-two novels, set in Botswana, Africa. I read it when it was first published in 1998 and have just re-read it for my mystery book club at work.
When Mma (pronounced “Ma”) Precious Ramotswe’s father, Obed lay on his deathbed, he told her to sell his cattle and buy a business to support herself. He’d suggested a butchery or a bottle store, but instead, Precious sets up the only women’s detective agency in all of Botswana. Precious is thirty-four when she hangs up a brightly-colored shingle outside her newly-acquired office. She buys two desks and two chairs, connects a telephone and hires a secretary. And Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni, owner of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, eager to help, donates an old typewriter from his nearby business.
The lawyer who handles the sale of her father’s cattle is skeptical. “It’s easy to lose money in business,” he warns her. “Especially when you don’t know anything about what you’re doing…And anyway, can women be detectives?”
Her answer? “Women are the ones who know what’s going on. They are the ones with the eyes. Have you not heard of Agatha Christie?”
Precious may not have prior experience, but she’s a woman with excellent hunches and a sense of justice.
It doesn’t take long for her services to be in demand. She shrewdly uncovers imposters, cheaters, and swindlers and uses clever charm to teach them lessons they won’t forget. One case, however, about a missing boy, dogs her, and uncovers the dark side of witchcraft and human sacrifice in Botswana.
As she solves each case, we get to know Precious and learn about her past, including a short-lived marriage and a painful loss. We also learn about her father’s life in the South African diamond mines. Above all, readers understand the deep love and pride she has for Botswana, a country which, in 1885, was established as a protectorate by the United Kingdom and in 1966 became an independent republic.
This charming story is also not without a little romance, which the author sets up nicely to continue in the next book.
In our continuous quest to find great new books, we lose sight of the great ones we’ve missed. Even though I read it in 1998, I’d forgotten all about how much I enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to catching up on the rest. Have you read this series? Have you watched the BBC series which first aired in 2008? Leave a comment and tell me what you think!
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