The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

Alexander McCall Smith

Abacus 2003
A book review by Danny Yee © 2003
When her father dies, Precious Ramotswe sells the hundred and eighty cattle she inherits and sets up as Botswana's only female private detective. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is the first of what are now five books about her, and Smith seems to have written it with a series in mind. After a brief opening "micro-mystery", it sets the background, telling the story of Precious Ramotswe's father, who got his start working in the mines, and describing her childhood, her disastrous marriage, and the setting up of her detective agency. And when jobs start coming in, there's no one big mystery to hold everything together, but rather a variety of cases: a missing husband, a wayward teenager daughter, a strangely behaving doctor, and a kidnapped boy.

There are several things that make The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency entrancing. There is Precious herself, who is human in her uncertainties and doubts and has a background and skills quite unlike any other fictional detective. There's Smith's lively prose and his understated but effective humour. And there's the fascination of the setting — Gaborone and the Kalahari, witchcraft and crocodiles, and the rhythms of ordinary Botswanan life. The result is a refreshingly original addition to the detective fiction genre.

October 2003

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%T The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
%A Smith, Alexander McCall
%I Abacus
%D 2003 [1998]
%O paperback
%G ISBN 034911675X
%P 250pp