Learn more Download now Shop now Browse your favorite restaurants Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Learn More Shop now Learn more Shop Fire Shop Kindle Learn More Shop now Shop now Learn more

on 6 August 2015
'Mma Ramotswe had a detective agency in Africa, at the foot of the Kgale Hill. These were its assets: a tiny white van, two desks, two chairs, a telephone, and an old typewriter. There was a teapot, in which Mma Ramotswe - the only lady private detective in Botswana - brewed redbush tea. And three mugs - one for herself, one for her secretary, and one for the client. What else does a detective agency really need?'

A few economically descriptive lines of introduction, and the scene is perfectly set...

As well as the perpetually endearing, big-hearted, and big-bodied Mma Precious Ramotswe herself. there is of course a whole host of deliciously appealing characters still waiting in the wings. There's the agency's formidable secretary, Mma Makutsi ('Miss ninety-seven per cent', though perhaps the character is a little under-used in this initial instalment); there's Dr Maketsi (a close friend from Mma Ramotswe's home village of Mochudi); there's Mr J L B Matekoni (the ever-helpful proprietor of 'Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors', hailing also from Mochudi, and so hopelessly in love with our very own lady detective); there's Note Mokoti (our lady detective's worthless first love); there's Charlie Gotso (Gaborone's premier local gangster); and last but not least, Obed Ramotswe - the beloved father whose passing made it possible for Botswana's only ladies' detective agency to exist, and who is never very far from Precious's thoughts.

The twenty-two chapters of this book don't really contain tales of detection in the purest sense of the word and shouldn't be approached with that expectation in mind. They are, instead, rather gentle - even whimsical - examinations of a place and a people so utterly captivating that you desperately hope that it does all exist just so, exactly as portrayed...even though a niggling doubt persists that it can't quite be true - can it...? For if this IS Botswana, then and now, and if these are its people - well, who wouldn't want to visit or even live there...? This is the fundamental joy of this novel: its depiction of time, place, and people - clad in such unalloyed appeal!

Some reviewers have criticised the style of prose adopted here by Alexander McCall Smith - that it lacks sophistication. Well, I suppose it does. But so what? I certainly wasn't expecting Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky - and I wouldn't want the contributions from either, in this context, because that simply wouldn't work; it wouldn't fit. Mr McCall Smith has resorted to a style, on the contrary, that works a treat because it perfectly sets the tone of place and personalities: the people and their country are (mostly) honest, candid, and uncomplicated - and surely, so must be the language and idiom that defines them, too!

To conclude:

I thoroughly enjoyed 'The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency' and don't fully understand how anyone who reads it could fail to be beguiled by the citizens of Botswana and its capital, Gaborone - and in particular, by the exploits of the one very special resident who lives in the corner house on Zebra Drive. As far as introductory volumes go, it's a winner as far as I'm concerned...though stretching the entire series to a considerable 15 volumes does present something of a daunting challenge, at this moment in time, and perhaps does carry the faintest whiff of 'overkill' about it...
0Comment| 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 10 June 2016
I chose this book as I needed a book based on Africa for my Goodreads book challenge. It was 250 odd pages long and, I thought, as it was a series of books I may read the others in time.

Firstly, I found the length of the chapters just right. On average they are around 10 pages long, which suits me fine as I'm not keen on over elongated chapter and I find that I can get into a story better with shorter chapters. There are, however, a few big chapters but it didn't bother me too much.

There is one main story and several mini cases within the book and I found it fun to read the smaller cases whilst Mma Rowetswe attempted to solve the main case. She also comes across as very affable and clever and you immediately like her, mainly because she has had the same heartaches and upsets we all have.

My one gripe is the use of people's full names throughout the book ie J L B Matekoni, when a shortened version could have been used and would have made the book flow easier for me. Other than that I really enjoyed the book and will be reading the others in the series.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 11 October 2016
I have been looking for one of these books for quite some time, ideally as a sampler before I commit to reading the series. I picked this one up at a charity shop and it was my introduction to the series, albeit not as the "first in the series". Easy reading and really charming, I found the books just had something that appealed to me. Having lived in South Africa I really could relate to a lot of the atmosphere and ambience of the series, and of course the characters are so life like that I can almost imagine meeting them myself. As I am a quick reader I tend to go through a book like this in an evening, and as far as I am concerned they are just too short. I have tackled 5 in the series so far and they are all consistently good, and do not deviate from the original premise of the series. Great fun to read and they could also appeal to a younger audience because they make for comfortable reading. I look forward to more.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 16 November 2016
I love the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency books. I used to watch the series a few years back and found it very entertaining. I came across the first book last week and read it within a few days so I ordered the second book straight away. Alexander McCall Smith is a great writer and is good and showing the perspectives of a woman. The investigations are serious but he makes me laugh out loud with his wordings. The characters have great personalities that all seem to go together. Can't wait to read the third book.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 9 September 2016
I really love the series of the No1 Ladies Detective Agency, so much so that I have read them all several times and have bough them in paperback, hard back and now for my Kindle. Any more come out and they will be just for the kindle as I read them over and over again. Hard to believe the book is not written by a traditionally built Mma from Botswana! A real treat to read
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 1 March 2015
It's certainly a fluent, easy read with a sympathetic and appealing lead character in the fulsome shape of Mma Precious Ramotswe. Some historical and cultural detail embellishes the story effectively, and the landscape and setting are brought to life perfectly adequately.

My criticisms are perhaps a matter of taste. Though difficult to fault the writing, at times, both the content and the delivery border on over-simplification, the mysteries themselves also suffer from this weakness. Dark, unhappy events are not overlooked, it must be said, but, somehow, they evaporate a little too satisfactorily. Put it that way.

Ultimately, I was left me with the general impression that this undemanding, life-affirming read might best engage the younger reader.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 12 October 2017
This book is the gateway to a wonderful world described by Alexander McCall Smith. Themes of homespun wisdom and a good moral compass are explored through the telling of problem solving stories concerning everyday Botswanan folk. I am hooked and now on volume four. Keep it up AMS!
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 11 September 2013
Having seen one episode of the TV series, I bought the first book in the 'No 1 Ladies Detective Agency' saga. I am now completely hooked, have all the available titles, and read nothing else at the moment. There is a subtle kind of magic in these stories; they are seemingly simple but are truly profound, and touch upon the basic needs, hopes and longings of most of mankind , and all of this is delivered in stories which are carefully crafted, and beautifully written with real humour in the exchanges between the main characters. As in life, gestures of kindness, trust, and the spirit of hope are often unrewarded; these are not fairy stories for children, but are absolutely remarkable in their ability to draw in this reader at least, and the end of each book makes me want to reach out for the next.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
VINE VOICEon 5 July 2008
This is the second book in the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency Series, and begins as the first book finishes. Unlike other sequels there is no intervening period, which will therefore need explaining throughout the book, just in case you did not read the first.

You need to read the first, to understand the characters of Mma Ramotswe, Mr J L B Maketoni and Mma Makutsi and the relationships they have between them. Along with beautiful setting of Botswana. The descriptions of the area and places further a field are still rich and colourful, giving a true sense of the place.

There are many storylines running concurrently through the book; the engagement of Mma Ramotswe and Mr J L B Maketoni which everyone is talking about, and how they are a suited match. The promotion of Mma Makutsi to the highly qualified secretary late of the Khalari typing school to assistant detective and her first assignment which causes all moral cause to think of the correct result for the client.

Mr J L B Maketoni's dedication to helping the machinery at the local orphan farm (do not be put off by this, it is not a farm in its truest sense) leads to him adopting two children who have had a very bad start to life. He fails to consult Mma Ramotswe, about this decision but because he knows she is an amazing woman, she accepts these children as her own and starts to build a life for them as well a home, for when she finally marries Mr J L B Maketoni.

The main storyline throughout is of the American woman who comes to find out what happened to her son some ten years previous when he seemingly disappeared from a local project he was working on. She does not want justice; she wants some sort of finality into her missing son so she can finally lay that part of her life to rest. Mma Ramotswe spends a lot of time, energy and cleverly uses lies and blackmail (when she does it, it somehow does not seem dishonest) to find out the truth of ten years previous.

This is a lovely read, pure escapism and pure joy. I have come somewhat late to discovering these stories, but I a endeavouring to catch up with them and will seek out book three, I know I am guaranteed a good read.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 17 October 2014
I bought this book and the next ones in the series based on the fact i loved the tv series and I work in a library and these books are extremely popular. Although I was really looking forward to reading it i didn't enjoy it very much. It lacked the warmth of the tv series and I felt the story didn't flow as well. I also found the tv series made me laugh a lot but the book didn't. Normally I enjoy books far more than tv or film versions but I feel that the characters in the book had different personalities, so maybe if you haven't watched this on tv you might love the books but they are not for me.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse