The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall-Smith

The last time I read anything that could be considered a mystery, I was seven years old and it was a Nancy Drew book. It creeped me out and I swore off mysteries, presumably forever. Recently, however, I decided to give them one more chance and started to read The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith.  This is the beginning of a very popular series about Mma Ramotswe, the first and only lady detective in the small Botswana town of Gaborone.  McCall Smith introduces Mma Ramotswe as she is first opening her detective business, and uses flashback to give the reader insight into her past.

McCall Smith divides the novel into several individual cases that Mma Ramotswe solves through clever observation, well-meaning manipulation, and a bit of luck. She deals with unfaithful husbands, an elusive teenager, and an insurance con man, but one case puts to the test her commitment to the truth.  The case of a missing boy threads throughout the novel. Mma Ramotswe dismisses it at first, once she detects the tell-tale signs of the work of witch doctors. But when her friend and would-be suitor, Mr. J.L.B Matekoni, discovers a child’s finger bone in the glove compartment of an influential Gaborone man, Mma Ramotswe is moved to action.

I always enjoy books that describe the essence of a place and The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency definitely does that. By writing from Mma Ramotswe’s perspective, McCall Smith is able to use the local style of speech and to describe the setting with fond familiarity. The mystery aspect of this novel was just enough to keep me turning the pages, but not so much that I dreamed about corpses and murder weapons.  I’d recommend this to anyone who is hesitant to read a traditional mysteries and who enjoys discovering new places through literature.

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2 Responses to “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall-Smith”

  1. Mr. W. Says:

    Great Review!

  2. Best New Books of 2014: Janet L’s Picks | Wake County Libraries "Book a Day" Staff Pick Says:

    […] A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman Neighborhood curmudgeon Ove is not amused when a lively young family moves in next door.  Imagine everyone’s surprise, especially Ove’s, when instead of the expected disaster, something wonderful results.  Fredrik Backman’s debut is an amazing mixture of comedy, pathos and social commentary.  Will appeal to almost everyone, especially fans of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce and The No. 1 Ladies Detective series by Alexander McCall Smith. […]

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