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The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency

Alexander McCall Smith

Average Review Rating Average Rating 7/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Abacus

Published : 2003

Copyright : Alexander McCall Smith 203

ISBN-10 : PB 0-349-11675-X
ISBN-13 : PB 978-0349116754

Publisher's Write-Up

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.

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency received two Booker Judges' Special Recommendations and was voted one of the International Books of the Year and the Millennium by the Times Literary Supplement.

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Reader Reviews

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Review by Nadine (311006) Rating (7/10)

Review by Nadine
Rating 7/10
The Number One Ladies' Detective Agency caught my attention because I've always liked a good mystery. I thought it would be a bit like the Miss Marple books, but set in Africa instead of Saint Mary Mead.

The lady detective in question is Precious Ramotswe, a stout, thirty-something single lady living in a small town in Botswana. She spends her inheritance on setting up a private detective agency, which seems doomed to failure at first. But then, slowly, the clients begin to arrive with their wayward teenagers, dishonest employees and missing husbands.

Suffice to say it was nothing like Miss Marple. This was a totally different theme of book, the focus being far more on the characters and their lifestyles than on any actual mystery. There were mysteries, but they were short and not very complex. Precious is a no-nonsense, practical type. Cunning and quick-thinking, but very down to earth, she doesn't get involved in complicated brain-bending murders. Her mysteries are the kind that can be solved in an afternoon if you have a nice head-clearing cup of tea and then do the necessary legwork.

So, there were no massive plot twists. No particularly intriguing puzzles. No armies of characters, any one of whom could be the culprit. Nothing like that. Just a series of mildly diverting episodes, some with more satisfying conclusions than others. I can't say I even found the writing style particularly attractive. In fact I found it rather bland.

So why couldn't I put it down?

I can only assume that it's because the author seemed to effortlessly conjure a vision of Africa and its people that seemed real to me in a way it never has before. Gone was the vague impression of an arid, hostile landscape wracked with famine, drought and political unease. In its place was a community of warm, friendly people, living side by side with exotic wildlife under an endless, impossibly blue sky.

Precious herself is a warm and charming character who it's impossible not to like. She has been through some tough times, but has come out of it strong, determined and wise.

It's just a pleasant, easy read. Simple and undemanding but entertaining enough to make a few hours pass by unnoticed. It didn't leave me desperate to get hold of the next book in the series, but next time I am facing a long train journey it will be just the thing.
Nadine (31st October 2006)

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