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The No. 1 Ladiesʼ Detective Agency (1998)

by Alexander McCall Smith

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
12,224350338 (3.72)2 / 779
This first novel in Alexander McCall Smith's widely acclaimed The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series tells the story of the delightfully cunning and enormously engaging Precious Ramotswe, who is drawn to her profession to help people with problems in their lives. Immediately upon setting up shop in a small storefront in Gaborone, she is hired to track down a missing husband, uncover a con man, and follow a wayward daughter. But the case that tugs at her heart, and lands her in danger, is a missing eleven-year-old boy, who may have been snatched by witch doctors.… (more)
  1. 40
    The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterill (heidialice)
  2. 41
    Still Life by Louise Penny (bell7)
    bell7: Readers who enjoy Mma Ramotswe's understanding of people may also appreciate Inspector Gamache's methods and insistence that listening to and understanding people solve cases.
  3. 20
    A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson (bookwoman247)
    bookwoman247: Both books have a similar, lighthearted tone, and of course, they have the African setting in common.
  4. 10
    The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly (stevedore)
    stevedore: Similar light-hearted quirky characters and lack of dramatic tension.
  5. 10
    Frangipani by Célestine Hitiura Vaite (jayne_charles)
    jayne_charles: Culturally illuminating with similar feelgood vibe
  6. 10
    Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey (-Eva-)
    -Eva-: It's a little more gruesome than McCall Smith's books, but it's a true pageturner!
  7. 10
    Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin (elbakerone)
    elbakerone: Although they take place in different African countries (Smith's Botswana and Parkin's Rwanda), both books have a similar flavor with the leading ladies helping out their neighbors. Throughout their respective stories, each book reveals a bit about the culture and daily life of the country where it takes place.… (more)
  8. 00
    The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall (bookmomo)
    bookmomo: Both books are cory mysteries, with different plotlines, in an exotic environment. Nice, comfortable reads
  9. 00
    The Cliff House Strangler by Shirley Tallman (missmaddie)
    missmaddie: Mystery novels filled with woman power!
  10. 00
    Tail of the Blue Bird by Nii Ayikwei Parkes (sanddancer)
  11. 01
    Jana Bibi's Excellent Fortunes by Betsy Woodman (amyblue)
    amyblue: Although Jana Bibi is set in India and No. 1 Ladies detective Agency is set in Botswana, both have a great respect for the local culture but are told from a more western perspective, and both have a cast of quirky characters.

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English (338)  Swedish (5)  Spanish (2)  Norwegian (1)  German (1)  Finnish (1)  Dutch (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (350)
Showing 1-5 of 338 (next | show all)
this definitely grew on me as it went on, but my feeling at the beginning was that the writing was mediocre at best, the character wasn't interesting enough, and there wasn't enough cohesiveness to make me care or to hold it together. it ends up being almost like a series of connected short stories all about mma ramotswe and mostly about the (generally) small cases she takes at her new detective agency. there are a couple of threads that persist through the book, one of a missing boy and one of a personal nature, but otherwise each chapter is largely stand-alone. this felt ok by the end, and looking at it more as a collection of short stories helped. (i'm curious if the series continues like this, in this style, but probably don't like it well enough to seek out more books to find out.) by the end, he'd built enough information about mma ramotswe that i cared more, but i would have preferred to care more from the beginning. it was nice to get a bit of a sense of botswana, although i take his white guy perspective with a large grain of salt. ( )
1 vote overlycriticalelisa | Jul 13, 2020 |
probably more like 3.5~ ( )
  chloec | Jul 7, 2020 |
I loved this from start to finish - it was the perfect read for the current quarantine: highly entertaining, humorous, it tugs at your heartstrings, and it's very informative, as well.

Of course it probably has all kinds of flaws, but nothing that bothered me. Don't expect a tense thriller: this is an episodic cozy mystery that tells the story of our lovable female detective, her father's life story, and several different cases involving various kinds of fraud, crocodiles, kidnapped children, giant cobras getting stuck in your car, forbidden boyfriends, and outsmarting the bad guys without being heartless (in fact, Mma Ramotswe lets a few of the not-so-baddies off without any punishment worse than a stern talking-to). I particularly enjoyed the characters - all of whom seemed to leap off of the page because they felt so alive and unique. Getting to know Botswana and its cultures and people - all of whom the author clearly loves very much - was wonderful and very informative for me. I can't speak on how authentic the representation is, but it certainly feels well-researched and deeply empathetic (and the author was born there and lived there for a long time).

I can also highly recommend the audiobook, which not only features very convincing voices for each character, but also several different accents for African languages (including the clicks which I find so hard to pronounce) which just adds even more immersive flavor to the stories.

One thing I should mention: I felt that e.g. the father's life story (he worked in a diamond mine) and other character-focused sections were actually the strongest parts, and the cases and their mysteries, while entertaining, were weaker than this fantastic, moving character work. If you read a lot of mysteries then their plot twists will probably be a little predictable sometimes. But even then, I think this novel is still worth reading just for how well the author conjures milieu and how well he crafts vivid characters that feel like real people. The prose style is unobtrusive - if you want to read very poetic, lyrical prose then this book wouldn't give you what you're looking for. But if you're looking for something that will take you to a (probably, depending on where you live) faraway place and characters that are a joy to spend time with, then I think you'll enjoy this. ( )
  Evamaren | Jun 7, 2020 |
not really a mystery... ( )
  ker95tx | May 27, 2020 |
I love this book about how Mme Ramotswe got started with her No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency in Botswana. It tells about her early life and her father, whom she loved. It also tells of her marriage to Note and what a disaster that was. The early cases that she solves are endearing and she is such a special lady in how she treats people and how she is so in tune with them and very observant. I am so glad that one special case ended up with a happy ending but I won't give away which one! ( )
  LilQuebe | May 4, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 338 (next | show all)
Mma Ramotswe's love of Africa, her wisdom and humor, shine through these pages as she shines her own light on the problems that vex her clients. Images of this large woman driving her tiny white van or sharing a cup of bush tea with a friend or client while working a case linger pleasantly. General audiences will welcome this little gem of a book just as much if not more than mystery readers.
added by Lemeritus | editPublishers Weekly (Aug 27, 2002)

» Add other authors (17 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Smith, Alexander McCallprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Carlsson, PederTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kern, ÉlisabethTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McIntosh, IainIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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This book is for

Anne Gordon-Gillies

in Scotland

and for

Joe and Mimi McKnight

in Dallas, Texas
First words
Mma Ramotswe had a detective agency in Africa, at the foot of Kgale Hill.
...was featureless land, cluttered with low thorn trees, on the branches of which there perched the hornbills and the fluttering molopes, with their long, trailing tail feathers. It was a world that seemed to have no end, and that, I think, is what made Africa in those days so different. There was no end to it. A man could walk, or ride, forever, and he would never get anywhere. -Page 15
...every man has a map in his heart of his own country and that the heart will never allow you to forget this map. -Page 18
The problem, of course, was that people did not seem to understand the difference between right and wrong. They needed to be reminded about this, because if you left it to them to work out for themselves, they would never bother. They would just find out what was best for them, and then they would call that the right thing. That’s how most people thought. -Page 35
The Reverend looked down at the ground, which, in her experience, was where people usually looked if they felt truly sorry. The shamelessly unrepentant, she found, always looked up at the sky. -Page 68
If she had listened to her father, if she had listened to the cousin’s husband, she would never have married Note and the years of unhappiness would never have occurred. But they did, because she was headstrong, as everybody is at the age of twenty, and when we simply cannot see, however much we may think we can. The world is full of twenty-year-olds, she thought, all of them blind. -Page 135
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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ISBN 1405500018 is the abridged audio book narrated by Adjoa Andoh. Do not combine this edition with the full work.
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Average: (3.72)
0.5 7
1 68
1.5 13
2 204
2.5 58
3 849
3.5 230
4 1180
4.5 92
5 722

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