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The No. 1 Ladiesʼ Detective Agency by…

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
10,956330258 (3.72)2 / 720
  1. 50
    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 (318)  Swedish (5)  Spanish (3)  Danish (1)  Norwegian (1)  German (1)  Finnish (1)  All (330)
Showing 1-5 of 318 (next | show all)
Mma Ramotswe is a wonderful character, she is thoughtful, whimsical, practical and clever. Her mechanic friend is so wonderful too, the ending was so sweet! I definitely want to read more and see the tv series. I had actually read the second book first, and thought it was okay, but wasn't wowed, I think though that was because I did not have the backstory and character set up from the first book. Enjoy and recommend! ( )
  shaunesay | Jun 21, 2017 |
I love cozy mysteries, however the characters and setting were just not very interesting to me. I wanted to like this, just because it was so different than the series I usually read, but was never able to connect in a way that kept my attention. ( )
  lexxa83 | Apr 6, 2017 |
This book definitely gets credit from me for having an African woman overcoming adversity and sexism to open a detective agency in Botswana, and for its description of that county and its culture – what a great protagonist, and besides that, I learned some things. Alexander McCall Smith has such an interesting background – born in Zimbabwe and having taught law at the University of Botswana, professor of law at Edinburgh University, and author of a wide variety of books. His erudition is always evident, but I like how he keeps it low-key, with a writing style that has a lightness and humanity about it. This particular story tended to meander a bit with lots of smaller stories in the various cases the detective takes on after opening her agency, which was nice in one sense, but I kind of wish it had been a little more weighty and focused on a single story. Still, a good read, and excellent if this genre suits you.

On night:
“She remembered somebody saying that at night we are all strangers, even to ourselves, and this struck her as being true.”

This one illustrates the humor McCall Smith sometimes slips in, and I chuckled over his question at the end, as if directly addressing the reader with a droll smile on his face as he wrote it:
“She had heard that people did not like lawyers, and now she thought she could see why. This man was so certain of himself, so utterly convinced. What had it to do with him what she did? It was her money, her future. And how dare he say that about women, when he didn’t even know that his zip was half undone! Should she tell him?”

And this one:
“How terrible to be a man, and to have sex on one’s mind all the time, as men are supposed to do. She had read in one of her magazines that the average man thought about sex over sixty times a day! She could not believe that figure, but studies had apparently revealed it. The average man, going about his daily business, had all those thoughts in his mind; thoughts of pushing and shoving, as men do, while he was actually doing something else! Did doctors think about it while they took your pulse? Did lawyers think about it as they sat at their desks and plotted? Did pilots think about it as they flew their aeroplanes? It simply beggared belief.” ( )
1 vote gbill | Apr 1, 2017 |
Full disclosure: I was given an ARC of this book by the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review

I was a bit nervous before reading this. Would it just be a white man's view of Africa? Full of happy simple people with happy simple problems? Would I somehow end up feeling I was individually guilty for colonialism by enjoying it?

I needn't have worried. I mean, I'm white and middle class and liberal, so I feel guilty most of the time anyway, but at no point in reading The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency did my self hate stray outside the normal tolerances.

The book straddles crime and literary fiction, which is a neat trick; too many authors who try end up with mysteries that aren't compelling and stories that aren't insightful.

McCall Smith, though, uses the shape of a mystery serial to say something about his lead character and about the world she inhabits. Horrendously mistreated by her husband, having lost her beloved father to the mines, Mma Ramotswe's simple dream of opening a detective agency is her way of making the world a slightly better place.

No nemeses are foiled, no naval plans recovered, the mysteries are slight and domestic. They're each a commentary on greed, arrogance, conservatism, or some other everyday occurrence.

Obviously I can't deny the Botswana setting gave it all an exotic flare for this Western reader, but it also taught me a lot about a country I previously knew next to nothing about. The question of whether it's an accurate or fair reflection of that country, I'll leave to those who know more about it than me.

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency cheered me up. And I think that's what Mma Ramotswe would want to know. ( )
  m_k_m | Mar 15, 2017 |
This has been such an easy read. Could definitely say it brings out the simple 'pleasures' of reading. The language is clear and simple, it never feels like a burden to go through the stories. The descriptions of the landscapes of Botswana are all really identifiable. We have all imagined these scenarios of small villages, and their dusty roads, the friendly neighbourhood chats and peaceful environments, in our minds umpteen times. The author's narratives are so vivid, they leave us feeling warm in our hearts. Its a good and short read.

I would love to see a television series based on the book. It would be great to see how the landscape gets interpreted. I have mentally assigned actors to their respective characters, which I admit doesn't happen often unless the book really makes an impression. This is one such book.

*** I watched the BBC TV version and its perfect. Love the casting and the warm-hearted Mma Ramotswe and her bush tea. And, the landscapes are pleasant. I feel like I live there. I don't mind traveling to Botswana in the future. ( )
  Sharayu_Gangurde | Jan 19, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 318 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (23 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Smith, Alexander McCallprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Carlsson, PederTranslatorsecondary 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
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Mma Ramotswe had a detective agency in Africa, at the foot of Kgale Hill.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
From the back:

Meet Precious Ramotswe, the "miss Marple of Botswana" (the new york times book review) - a heroine who is endearing, engaging, and simply irresistible. with persistent observations, gentle intuition, and a keen desire to help people with problems do their lives, she solves mysteries great and small for friends and strangers alike.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 034911675X, Paperback)

Penzler Pick, July 2001: Working in a mystery tradition that will cause genre aficionados to think of such classic sleuths as Melville Davisson Post's Uncle Abner or Robert van Gulik's Judge Dee, Alexander McCall Smith creates an African detective, Precious Ramotswe, who's their full-fledged heir.

It's the detective as folk hero, solving crimes through an innate, self-possessed wisdom that, combined with an understanding of human nature, invariably penetrates into the heart of a puzzle. If Miss Marple were fat and jolly and lived in Botswana--and decided to go against any conventional notion of what an unmarried woman should do, spending the money she got from selling her late father's cattle to set up a Ladies' Detective Agency--then you have an idea of how Precious sets herself up as her country's first female detective. Once the clients start showing up on her doorstep, Precious enjoys a pleasingly successful series of cases.

But the edge of the Kalahari is not St. Mary Mead, and the sign Precious orders, painted in brilliant colors, is anything but discreet. Pointing in the direction of the small building she had purchased to house her new business, it reads "THE NO. 1 LADIES DETECTIVE AGENCY. FOR ALL CONFIDENTIAL MATTERS AND ENQUIRIES. SATISFACTION GUARANTEED FOR ALL PARTIES. UNDER PERSONAL MANAGEMENT."

The solutions she comes up with, whether in the case of the clinic doctor with two quite different personalities (depending on the day of the week), or the man who had joined a Christian sect and seemingly vanished, or the kidnapped boy whose bones may or may not be those in a witch doctor's magic kit, are all sensible, logical, and satisfying. Smith's gently ironic tone is full of good humor towards his lively, intelligent heroine and towards her fellow Africans, who live their lives with dignity and with cautious acceptance of the confusions to which the world submits them. Precious Ramotswe is a remarkable creation, and The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency well deserves the praise it received from London's Times Literary Supplement. I look forward with great eagerness to the upcoming books featuring the memorable Miss Ramotswe, Tears of the Giraffe and Morality for Beautiful Girls, soon to be available in the U.S. --Otto Penzler

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:45 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

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 witchdoctors.… (more)

» see all 13 descriptions

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