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Book Review: No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

November 2, 2010

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, #1)The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Alexander McCall Smith has quickly become one of my favorite authors. I’ve already written about 44 Scotland Street and Corduroy Mansions. However, his most well-known and popular series is The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. It has even been turned into an HBO TV series (which I have not seen).

This book introduces Precious Ramotswe, who at the beginning of the story has just gained an inheritance from her father and plans to set up the first ladies’ private detective agency in her native Botswana. Precious is a smart, independent, enterprising, and kind woman. She finds success mostly due to a combination of keen observation of detail, acute knowledge of and care for people, and sheer determination and will. She inevitably has a calming cup of red bush tea on hand to share with clients and friends alike.

I found the book to start out a little slow and it took me awhile to form an attachment to Mma. Ramotswe. Smith’s writing is as good as ever, but I just didn’t jive with the characters as quickly as his other books. However, by the end of the book, I found myself growing found of this plump motswana woman with the little white van. It’s also interesting to learn about the country and culture of Botswana.

Like his other books, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is a light read and a refreshing breath of air. When you’ve had a hard day, it’s nice to pick up something as pleasant as an Alexander McCall Smith novel for some well-written escapism. Really, I’d give this 3.5 stars, and I plan to continue reading the series.

View all my Goodreads reviews

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 2, 2010 8:32 pm

    Do you read a lot of mysteries? Is this very genre-mystery-esque?

    • November 2, 2010 11:54 pm

      I’ve read my fair share of mysteries and watched a lot of PBS’ Mystery! growing up. This book is not typical of the genre, which is probably good for you and bad for Lisa!

      The book contains several small-ish cases and you get Mma. Ramotswe’s thoughts as she solves the case rather than hiding details from the reader with the big reveal at the end. There is one case that works sort of as the big case of the book, but even that one is fairly short and straight-forward. Smith includes a teaser near the beginning and Mma. Ramotswe solves it at the end.

      It’s more about people and human nature than mystery. The same goes for his other novels: more about the characters than the plot.

  2. Lisa permalink
    November 2, 2010 11:19 pm

    I had trouble getting into it and quit after a few chapters. Maybe I should have stuck it out a bit longer. As a mystery buff, I found it too slow to bother with because I was expecting a particular pace from it, like I do other mystery novels. I’ll have to check out some of Smith’s other work.

    • November 2, 2010 11:59 pm

      Yeah, I saw your 1-star on Goodreads! That’s probably another reason it was slow going for me–I expected more of an Agatha Christie-type mystery and this was not it. Once I adapted and saw more of Precious in action, I liked it.

  3. November 4, 2010 9:59 pm

    Oh, Precious. Reading one of the books is like visiting with an old friend. I think that they get better, but often they’re less mystery than the story of the characters. I saw some of the TV series, too, and it’s very sweet, if different than I pictured the characters. .

    Thank you for visiting my blog- glad you liked the hubby’s pumpkins!

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