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Paperback The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Book

ISBN: 1400034779

ISBN13: 9781400034772

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

(Book #1 in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series)

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Format: Paperback

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Book Overview

Fans around the world adore the bestselling No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series and its proprietor, Precious Ramotswe, Botswana's premier lady detective. In this charming series, Mma Ramotswe--with help from her loyal associate, Grace Makutsi--navigates her cases and her personal life with wisdom, good humor, and the occasional cup of tea. This first novel in Alexander McCall Smith's widely acclaimed The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series tells...

Customer Reviews

6 ratings

The rhythms of Africa are here.

What I enjoyed most about the book was the rhythm of the language and names. There is melody here worth listening to carefully. There is the modern life of establishing a business and the challenges faced by our lady detective. Her insight and intelligence guide her through several cases, but her most challenging case is one she sets for herself, bringing to light the darker side of Africa. A worthy, fun read.

The Ladies' No. 1 Detective Novel

I highly recommend that you read The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith. The author was born in Africa, taught law at University of Botswana and is a professor of medical law at Edinburgh University. I feel confident he draws a realistic picture of life in Botswana. It is one of the emerging African nations, a landlocked country about the size of Texas, located just above South Africa. The Kalahari is right next-door. The author writes about Africa as seen through the loving eyes of Mma Precious Ramotswe, who establishes the first detective agency in Botswana. This is a business she feels will fill a need in the community because people are always wanting to know something. Mma Ramotswe is proud of her country, proud of the first President of her country even though no one remembers him now. Mma Ramotswe is about 35 years old when we meet her--a very likeable woman in control of her life. She is a fine figure of an African woman, not one of these skinny sticks of girls you see nowadays (in her words). The clients who come to her agency each have a story of his or her own. They are told in a simple and direct way and are all the more powerful for their simplicity. For instance: an old man shows up claiming to be a woman's long lost Daddy. She would care for him and gladly give him a home, as is her duty-if he really is her Daddy. Mma Ramotswe is hired to find out. You'll have to read the book to find out for yourself!She had been married when she was young, but the man was gone now, leaving nothing but pain behind. She has no dearth of suitors now, but she is an independent woman with a business, and thinks she does not need a husband. Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, a good man and owner-operator of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, is one of her many admirers. He wants to marry her. Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni says, "Yes, a country needs Government men, it needs doctors and nurses and teachers. But it also needs mechanics for the cars of these important people." He visits the local orphanage to keep its water pump in good working order and tune up or repair its vehicle. The stories told in this little book are at once shocking and familiar. They are stories of human nature. It is easy to find similarities to her stories in our own lives. These are good people and their stories will draw you right in.

Miss Marple, move over!

Precious Ramotswe is a comfortable size-22 African lady (none of your Euro/American size 6's for her, thank you very much) with a fund of mother-wit and a penchant for minding other people's business. Having survived a disastrous, abusive marriage and the death of her infant son, she turns a small legacy from her late father, whom she adored, into "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency", the only one of its kind in Botswana, or maybe in all of Africa. From shaky beginnings with non-paying clients and chauvinistic male attitudes ("Who ever heard of a woman detective?" demands a border policeman; "Haven't you ever heard of Agatha Christie?" Mma Ramotswe shoots back, not missing a beat), she builds up a small but solid clientele that brings her problems to solve concerning cheating husbands, wayward daughters, malingering employees trying to commit insurance fraud; and a spectacularly sinister case involving a missing eleven year old boy who may or may not have been murdered for witchcraft purposes. Giving Mma Ramotswe quiet but ever-present moral support, while keeping her old car from falling apart, is Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, who loves every inch of Mma Ramotswe's ample frame and is patiently waiting for the brick wall of her resistance to marriage to crumble, so she can make him the happiest man on earth.Smith has written an enchanting book that is can be described as a cross between an engaging detective story and a love poem to Africa. Mma Ramotswe is as warm and as solid as the red earth of Botswana; she loves every inch of the Africa she knows and identifies with and wouldn't live anywhere else. She embodies the African traits of deep ties to family and community, concern for one's neighbors, and respect for tradition. She commands respect and she gets it. Smith has added a delightful and enduring creation to the pantheon of famous detectives in fiction. Jane Marple, move over. Or rather, make a separate space for Mma Ramotswe. She deserves a pedestal of her own.


An absolutely wonderful start to what is hopefully is a long-running detective series set in modern Botswana. This fast-reading book isn't so much a set piece mystery as it is the story of an African woman in her late thirties who stakes her entire inheritance on the crazy idea of becoming the country's first woman private detective. Precious Ramotswe is a intelligent "traditionally built" woman with a keen sense of human nature and a desire to help people in distress. This book tells of her childhood, her loving miner father, an ill-considered marriage to a trumpeter, her strong belief in her own abilities, and skeptical take on the forces of progress and modernization. This volume contains her first cases, which she adroitly solves with the assistance of her expert typist secretary and the local master mechanic, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni.But the book is not just about her, but also aims to portray a positive picture of modern Africa, one all too rarely seen in the West. The cases often intertwine with issues such as development, social structures, power, and gender, but in a disarmingly light and gentle way. Among her tasks are to find a missing husband, investigate a doctor, follow a teenage girl, and find a missing boy who may have been kidnapped by a witch doctor. None of these are particularly convoluted, and Precious's greatest difficulty often lies in determining exactly what to tell her client in order to effect the best result for all concerned and achieve cosmic justice. The stories are delivered in a delightfully fluid and simple prose with pacing that makes the book quite difficult to put down.The series thankfully continues with Tears of the Giraffe and The Kalahari Typing School For Men, with further volumes to follow one hopes.

What a fun book to read!

"No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency," introduces the reader to "Precious Ramotswe, citizen of Botswana, daughter of Obed Ramotswe who died because he had been a miner and could no longer breathe." Instead of calling her Precious Ramotswe, everyone commonly addresses the story's heroine as Mma. Ramotswe.We read about Mma. Ramotswe life growing up and that of her father who worked as a miner and later became a prosperous cattle owner. When her father passes away, being the only child, Mma. Ramostswe becomes the recipient of a sizable amount of money. She decides to use the funds to establish what will become the first detective agency in Botswana (in the southern part of Africa). This decision will make her "the first and only lady private detective in the whole of Botswana..." When others scoff at or try to dissuade her about the idea of female detective, Mma. Ramotswe deftly points to the well-known mystery writer, Agatha Christie who solved many mysteries through popular characters such as Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple. This portly, intelligent and amusing woman is an unlikely character, in an unlikely setting - Africa. But why not? There are mysteries to be solved everywhere and by anyone.Mma. Ramotswe's cases are amusing - they range from imposters, missing husbands, lost children, to stolen property and more. What is interesting is the way the premier lady detective solves her cases and handles herself in particular situations and with others.Author Alexander Mc Call Smith, who is also a law professor, was born in Zimbabwe (southern part of Africa) and educated in that country as well as in Scotland. He successfully captures the true essence, mannerisms, greetings and culture of Africa and its characters that are proud to come from that continent. In addition to Botswana and South Africa, other countries such as Ghana, Nigeria (countries in West Africa), Lesotho, Mozambique, and Malawi (countries in the southern part of Africa, not to be confused with South Africa) are mentioned as well. If you are unaware of these countries, it is a nice learning experience. After reading "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency," you'll feel as if you've been to Botswana and solved a few cases, yourself! Read it, you'll enjoy it!Fafa Demasio

The No. 1 BOOK

A far cry from the fast paced, violent nature of the Walter Mosely mysteries, Alexander McCall Smith's The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency opens on the doorstep of a calm, warm afternoon in Botswana, Africa, with Precious Ramotswe sipping tea on the porch of the detective agency that she opened with the money from the inheritance bequeathed to her by her beloved father. She lives a difficult life, facing the loss of her mother at an early age, betrayal by her husband, the death of her child, and the death of her father. Initially the townspeople are skeptical of her agency because of her gender, but she repeatedly proves that her wisdom and her instincts are invaluable to the successful resolution of cases dealing with various types of charlatans, disappearances, and crimes. Through the pure, limpid quality of straightforward storytelling, we see that she becomes a community confidante, a "fixer of lives" conducting herself with dignity and grace, yet doing what she must do to put those lives back together when they fall to pieces. On a continent faced with impending changes due to exposure to the modernity of the western world, Mma Ramotswe represents a passionate tribute to the beauty of the old Africa, recording the "unrecorded voices" of those who still follow the old traditions and reminding us that, when thought gets you nowhere, you still have to eat your pumpkin.
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