Thursday, 1 January 2015

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

It was Obed Ramotswe’s dying wish for his daughter that she open a business so that she would have a stable future. So, Precious Ramotswe started The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency. It was the number one ladies detective agency in Botswana because she was the only female detective in the country.  Precious tackles many mysteries in the novel, everything from paternity issues, infidelity, searching for missing persons and dealing with a kidnapper.
Jill Scott as Precious Ramotswe in the TV adaption
The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency is the first book in the detective series about Precious Ramotswe. There are currently fifteen books and the latest book released last year.  I was drawn to this book from watching the TV series. I was intrigued to read about an African woman detective as the only literary detectives I knew were Sherlock Holmes, Poirot and Miss Marple.
The book is without a strong story arch and more episodic. The novel meanders along with Precious solving many little cases while gaining clues and musings about bigger ones. Precious solves cases using traditional detective skills rather than relying on gadgets. She interviews witnesses, follows suspects and looks up records.  Similar to Miss Marple, people dismiss her because she is a woman which she uses her to her advantage.
Precious is a strong character who is assertive, observant and contemplative often pausing to drink bush tea to think about what to do next. The secondary characters are memorable and each has their own quirks which make them loveable or interesting. I liked Mr J.L.B. Matekoni , a mechanic who fixes her car and listens to her problems and Mr Patel, an overly protective father who hires Precious to follow his sixteen year old daughter.
Some of the cases that Precious solves are trivial like when she needs to find a lost dog and other cases are more serious such as a case involving human trafficking. Despite some of the serious subject matter, the novel is not bleak as Precious approaches each case with determination and optimism.
Another aspect of the novel is the deep admiration of Africa. Precious is fiercely proud of her country while also being aware of its shortcomings and hoping for the best. After reading the book and watching the TV series, I’d love to go to Botswana some day. It seems like a beautiful country with lovely people.

I will be continuing to read The No.1 Ladies Detective series and I will get the TV series on DVD. I think the book series is a fun read and perfect for summer reading or people who like detective stories. The TV series is good family viewing for people with older children as there is hardly any violence, no use of profanity or sex scenes. 


  1. Is the series humorous at all Carlyn? Do the books have something of a lighthearted nature to them with good outcomes? Is Precious a completely fictional character or are the books based off of a real woman from Botswana who decided to open her own detective agency?

    The female detective I remember the most is Jessica Fletcher (played by Angela Lansbury) from the 1980s and 1990s television series Murder She Wrote. I thought it was very well done and entertaining. I'm sure a lot of people must have felt that way with the series 12 year run.

    1. The books are humorous with good outcomes at the end. Precious is a fictional character. I forgot Jessica Fletcher, I use to watch Murder She wrote too. That woman sure had a lot of friends and acquaintances that got murdered.


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