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The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
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Product Description

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.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews:

  • Not Worth Lining Up to Get Your Copy
    I've been hearing about this book for a long time. People speak about it in glowing terms. So........when I picked it up to read I expected something grand and wonderful. what I discovered was a cute series of vignettes about a chubby Botswanan detective who solves puzzles and some criminal activities. The writing is just okay and the subject matter just barely managed to hold my interest. I thought the book would be better marketed for young adults rather than for mature adults.

    I can't understand why the book is such a sensation and why a whole TV series has been made about it. I think I am drawn to more intense and darker books. I certainly prefer books with better narratives and a finer style of writing....more info
  • simple, fresh and enjoyable..
    Hats off to the author for attempting to deviate from the mainline sleuth stories (with protagonist being a gent that is tech savy or a martial art/sharp shooting expert chasing around in expensive cars in a story where atleast a dozen people end up dying).

    This is quite very different, with a not so attractive single woman running a detective agency solving cases that are simple and almost realistic. The African setting without any of the typical 'gods have left Africa' theme makes it even more interesting. I will definitely be reading few more books in this series.

    -Santhosh....more info
  • Tea and Mystery.....well, sort of
    When you've just waded through a gigantic work of serious history, laden with so many facts that it's a kind of literary Death by Chocolate, you need a change. I thought I'd find it with this tale of a Botswana lady detective and I wasn't mistaken. THE No1 LADIES' DETECTIVE AGENCY is as light as a milkweed seed wafting its way across a fall meadow. You couldn't ask for anything less taxing. Though ostensibly it is a detective novel, following any sort of plot is not too tough to say the least ! It is more a slice of life in the quiet, mildly-prosperous country of Botswana in southern Africa, seldom seen in the headlines because it has avoided murderous dictators, wars, and massacres, not to mention starvation and dire poverty. Mma Ramotswe sets herself up as a private detective. We meet her friends and acquaintances, see inside her house, learn the condition of her little white van, and follow her on her daily rounds as she discovers cheating husbands, embezzling employees, teenage romancers, fake doctors, and missing people. She drinks innumerable mugs of bush tea, politely deflects would-be husbands, and reflects on her own unfortunate marital history. Mma Ramotswe is a nice character, and she eventually solves---without the slightest twist or turn, no guns, no car chases---the only serious crime in the book, a murder or kidnapping case. It is all very lightweight. If this is what you are looking for, you've certainly come to the right place. Your brain will not get out of first gear, but you'll experience some mild enjoyment and be introduced to a society which might be a little too sane to be true. Mr. Smith, the author, should have done a bit more research on Indian names and somebody in the whole editorial process might have noticed that "Gandhi" does not have an `h' after the `G'. Whether or not a white man can assume successfully the character of a black African woman can be left to others to ponder. It's not usually a good idea. But the book definitely pleases if you don't get into "hegemonic discourse" and the like. Just like bush tea, it will settle you right down.
    ...more info
  • Mma Ramotswe is Worthy and Wise and An Enjoyable Storyteller
    If you find yourself needing a little uplifting relaxation and a fun read, pick up a copy of Alexander McCall Smith's The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency, the first book in the overwhelmingly series. A perfect break from an overdose of too many noir crime novels!

    The story tells how Mma (aka Precious) Ramotswe struggles to get the only detective agency run by a woman in Botswana off the ground. Smith, a native of Zimbabwe, intermixes several story strands, including Mma Ramotswe's back story. She deftly solves mysteries large and small without violence or high-tech equipment. Smith uses the stories to take the reader to a little bit of southern Africa.

    A very enjoyable read. Often compared to Agatha Christie with some justification, Mma Ramotswe is a worthy and wise fictional character in her own right. She narrates her own tales with a delightful light and commonsensical tone. Highly recommended.
    ...more info
  • Simply wonderful!
    Like many others, I refuse to call this a mystery or detective novel. Botswana is indeed the success story of Africa. Blessed with money (diamonds) plus enlightened, honest leadership, Botswana is slowly moving into the modern world in a way the rest of Africa can only envy. McCall Smith has presented us with a wonderful portrait of a calm and dignified people, in the person of Precious Ramotswe and her friends. The stories of crimes solved are clever, sometimes end with a twist, and are utterly charming. And McCall Smith is a wonderful writer--I almost cried at the end over the beautiful scene with Precious and her friend J.L.B. Matekoni, and he manages to bring this dusty beautiful land (which I have visited) to life. I certainly plan to read more in the series, and can only hope they live up to the wonderful promise of the first....more info
  • Warm, witty, and wise
    First book in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series.

    Precious Ramotswe, in the face of many doubts, starts a detective agency after the death of her father. Her response to these skeptics is, "Haven't you ever heard of Agatha Christie?"

    However, the true beauty of this book is not the mystery (though her cases are solved in satisfying ways). What I found most engaging is the glimpse into the culture of Botswana. Precious is a delightful character whose wisdom and humor will keep readers entranced throughout this quiet little book....more info
  • Charming, funny, light, informative
    This entire series is well worth your time. The books are quick and great for vacations, but are also quite informative since they are set in Botswana. The characters are VERY FUNNY. These books are in my top 10 and I'd highly recommend them to anyone....more info
  • Quick and Quirky
    This is almost a genre unto itself. Clearly there is a detective agency and a detective who solves cases. But these are unlike others in the usual mystery repertoire. Although the cases at hand are serious both to the clients and to the detective, the telling of them is light and delightful, short and sweet and a little bit quirky. :-) BUT clearly there is ingenuity at work. Try it; you'll like it! ...more info
  • Set in Botswana
    The setting and description of life and customs in this part of Africa was for me the best part of the novel. Though I was desperate for something to read on a trans-Atlantic flight, I just did not get into this book quickly or for long periods of time. The narrative was a little disjointed, and the series of "mysteries" never required a lot of investigation, so there wasn't a lot of suspense. The one concerning the good/bad doctor was obvious to me straight away and I was surprised Lady Detective Ramotswe didn't figure it out sooner. The tone of the novel is nice and gentle, sometimes bordering on the naive. Still worth reading for something a little different. For another British mystery set in an exotic locale, try Murder in the Raw: A Rex Graves Mystery (Rex Graves Mystery) by C.S. Challinor....more info
  • African Wisdom
    Written by a man, The No1 Ladies' Detective Agency has enough of a feminist persepctive for me to feel I was reading something actually written for me, rather than feeling as I usually do when reading, that I am trying to take pleasure in literature created for an audience of which I am not a part. McCall Smith' s feminism is simple but fundamental : men should not beat their wives, the better fathers are those who encourage their daughters to be independent and realise their dreams, women have a right to happiness.

    These beliefs are just part of the basic philosophy of the central character, Mma Precious Ramotswe, the first lady detective in Botswana, who imparts her basic moral philosophy at the same time - murder is worse than lying, relationships are more important than money, intuition is a kind of knowledge. While all of this philosophy may seem clich¨¦d, as perhaps it is, it appears naturally in the book as part of the character and helps us to understand her approach to solving the cases brought to her.

    Woven throughout all of this is a picture of Botswana, considered by Ramotswe, and presumably McCall Smith, as the best and most successful country in Africa. Independent from the British since 1966, there is enormous pride in her accomplishments, and only the ongoinging black magic practices of some of the country's witchdoctors cast a shadow on the shining accomplishments of Botswana's diamond-fueled progress.

    Most powerfully of all, it is the love of the land that sings throughout the book. Botswana - stretching from the Kalahari desert to the Limpopo river, a country where ? there is a place for me, and for everybody, to sit down on this earth and touch it and call it their own ?. A country with its distinct riches - ? that was what her country was so rich in - emptiness...those empty spaces, those wide grasslands that broke and broke the heart ?. With its thorn trees that know how to survive in the searing heat and the birds and snakes of Mother Africa. Where nature is a family member and where the rising of the sun and its setting at the end of day are events to be savoured in the daily rhythm of life.

    I read this book in a relaxed afternoon, and felt I had passed my time with a pleasant companion, who had painted pictures for me of a place I might otherwise never visit.


    ...more info
  • can it be called an African cozy?
    I'm not entirely sure what genre "The #1 Ladies' Detective Agency" fits into, and that may be why I resisted reading it for a long time. I avoid books that get a lot of press by mainstream media (like the Today Show, Oprah, Regis, etc.), figuring it is just a sellout and not real praise. However, this book has real charm and a sweetness about it. No twisty Agatha Christie style plot, just a compassionate lady using her brain, intuition and common sense. The author communicates atmosphere beautifully and paints the culture and landscape of Botswana with a loving brush. ...more info
  • First in the Series
    The book was delivered as promised--in good condition and in a timely manner. Thank you!...more info
  • The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
    After reading the first chapter I thought what a delightful, but simply written, little book. Then it began to take on more complexities, a fleshing out of characters, and kept me well entertained to the end.
    This story takes place in Botswana, Africa. After Mma Ramotswe's father died, she used the proceeds from the sale of his estate of 180 head of cattle to open a detective agency. Although she had no training in this field she had lots of common sense and could bring about satisfactory closures to the various problems. This is a book to read over and over. But, the author wrote five more books that follow this one and I look forward to also reading those....more info
  • Simple, But Ever So Sweet
    The problems Botswana's Lady Detective, Mma Ramotswe solves aren't solved in a masterful way, ala Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. Yet there is a sweetness to this story that pervades. The relationships amongst the people are deep, and dear.
    Would that the protagonist had more complex problems to solve. Or that the one difficult problem wasn't abetted in a contrived situation. How interesting is it to read about someone being followed and a problem being solved just like that!
    Nevertheless, the patois seems authentic. There is a lyrical quality to the dialog that is enchanting. It's also a relief to read about any African country without hearing stories of bloodshed and depravity.
    I'm going to read some more books in this series....more info
  • A disappointment for me
    Our book group read this book because many of us had heard from other people that this series was really good. I have to say that I found this book a little boring. It's not really an ongoing plot but, instead, a series of short stories. The solutions to the "crimes" come about by the most unrealistic coincidences and situations. If solving cases were this easy there wouldn't be any criminals out on the streets. One gal in our book group bought the series based on recommendations and after reading the first book gave the rest of the set to one of the ladies who liked the book. I would say our book group consensus tallied at about 80% who didn't care for the book and 20% who did....more info
  • Dr. Komoti and the Others
    I get a little kick out of thinking about Mma Ramotswe (a.k.a. Precious) driving all over Botswana and South Africa in her little white van. Whether in pursuit of straying husband, solving the mystery of a doctor with on and off again abilities, tracking down a kidnapped boy, exposing the farce of an elderly "father," or spying on a teenager for her father, Mma Ramotswe is a remarkable lady who knows her stuff. Always a curious child who "watched everybody and everything will her wide, solemn eyes," her bent for detective work was nurtured by a cousin who wanted her to be clever.

    In addition to regaling the reader with Mma Ramotswe's investigative experiences, Smith includes a history of the likeable sleuth's earlier life, including a painful early marriage. He also tells the story of Precious's father Obed who worked in the mines, thus letting us know more about the history, culture, and geography of Botswana. A line preceding this section is particularly stirring: "His life was unrecorded; who is there to write down the lives of ordinary people?" Indeed, who?

    Although one doesn't ordinarily think of detective work as amusing, Smith has managed to write a delightful novel about an absolutely charming person who feels that she was called to help her brothers and sisters solve the mysteries of their lives. I felt a little sad when I finished it and have already ordered the next in the series. I must know if she marries J.L.B Matekoni and lives happily ever after.
    ...more info
  • The No. I Ladies Detective Agency
    Love, love this book. It's written so simply and beautifully. I had read other of the books in the series and went back to read the number one book so that I could understand what happened first. Precious Ramotswe is a gem. Nothing escapes this woman's eye. Yet she always has time for a break and nice cuppa bush tea. I wish I could join her and we could have a talk and a little gossip about the situations in Gaborone, Botswana that she is sorting out. Her assistant Mma. Makutsi is a scene stealer. She is so serious about her job and very conscientious. She was very proud of the fact that she earned 97% on her final exam at secretarial school. The cases Mma. Ramotswa solves are secondary to the humorous goings on in this African town. Author Alexander McCall Smith is a wonderful story teller. When you finish this book you can't wait to read the next one....more info
  • Blah
    The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency is the first story in a series of mystery novels about Mme. Ramotswe and the detective agency that she opens with the money left to her by her dying father. The catch here, if you hadn't noticed from the title, is that she is a woman, and not only that, the first woman detective in all of Botswana. If you missed that intricate plot detail, never fear, the main character will remind you of it during the course of the story. Again, and again, and again....

    I debated between one and two stars for this one. It wasn't a total waste. It had some charm to it... some. In the end I give it one star simply because I had much higher expectations for it, and it was a let down. Wow, and what a let down it was! I honestly really thought I would enjoy it. I was interested in the mystery aspect of it. I like a good mystery novel. I have a fascination with Africa, and being set in Africa, I was thinking "this looks like a winner."

    One of the main problems I had with is was the way in which the dialog of the characters was written. Another reviewer described it as "baby talk", and really, I can't think of any better way to describe it. I keep trying to come up with reasons for why it was written in this manner, but none of them make any sense to me. It just makes the characters come across as stupid, as though African people are incapable of using any words longer than five letters long or expressing themselves with any sort of eloquence what-so-ever.

    There's also the plot. Mme. Ramotswe solves several cases throughout the story with a certain finesse of Inspector Gadget. SPOILER ALERT! There is the case of the missing Christian husband, who Ramotswe is convinced has run away with another woman ("Men are stupid, LOLZ!!!1" is a major theme of the book). Turns out he was swallowed whole by a crocodile. Of course! There's the case of the 16 year old girl, who actually outsmarts Ramotswe. The girl is actually the only character in this book that I liked. There's the doctor with seemingly inconsistent talent. Like a plot twist straight out of a daytime soap opera, it turns out he has an identical twin brother who is getting to substitute for him in hospitals so he can hold down two jobs and earn twice the money. Wow! That makes so much sense... wouldn't he spend twice as much since he has to have two places to live? Other than that, I'm sure this is totally probable. And then there is the heart breaking case of a missing boy which challenges Ramotswe the most, and puts her in the most danger... or so says the back cover of the book. Allow me to paraphrase this climax of the book for you:

    Ramotswe: Your husband murdered a boy for Muti!
    Witchdoctor's Wife: Not he didn't. The boy is living on a cattle ranch.
    Ramotswe: Show me.
    Wife: Okay
    (drives to ranch)
    Ramotswe: Are you the boy who was kidnapped from the school teacher.
    Boy: Yes
    Ramotswe: Okay, I'm taking you home now.
    (drives to the boys house and drops him off)

    Seriously, if you blink, you might miss this climatic ending. I have watched episodes of Scooby Doo with more drama and suspense.

    In conclusion. Don't read it. Really, just don't waste your time. The No. 1 Detective Agency furthers my belief that it is now possible for anyone to get a book published.

    The End....more info
  • Not really a mystery...
    Take one heaping cup of African history, culture & lifestyle, add in a half a cup of basic wisdom, philosophy & elementary dialog , then mix it up with a scant eight cup of a little bit of mystery, and you have this novel. I finished it because it was interesting & fairly entertaining., but in no way was it a mystery. Doubt if i'll buy any more of the series....more info
  • Nice read - well written
    The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (Book 1)
    Lovely read - no gimmicky stuff - just good old plain stories told from the perspective of Mma Ramotswe the Lady Detective....more info
  • A Glimpse of Southern Africa from an Author Who Knows
    This gently humorous book and its five similarly funny companions offer more than an engaging story line. You learn that Botswana is a true success story, one of the few in post-colonial sub-Saharan Africa. You can also learn something about the culture, social behavior, languages, and personal values of the people. Of course you need only go to Wikipedia or to Google "Botswana" to gain access to a wealth of facts, if facts will suffice. But, if you wish to be touched by the fabric of Botswana life the six books of the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series, will let it happen and provide much to ponder....more info
  • A good story, in the end
    Described as a "series of vignettes," The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency uses a non-linear narrative style which at times makes you wonder what one chapter has to do with anything else. Mma Ramotswe, the main character, is a clever woman who is always minding everyone else's business. Her antics and interactions entertain but the writing style doesn't really "set the hook." In the end, it all comes together. I enjoyed the story once it was complete, but not always so much along the way....more info