Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Book Review: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

the no 1 ladies detective agency The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

Category: Crime Fiction

Challenges: POC Challenge, Women Unbound

Synopsis: Mme Ramotswe is the only female private detective in Botswana. She has vowed to take on all cases. Some are big, but most are small domestic matters, philandering husbands and teenaged daughters with secrets.

My Thoughts: This book, with its rather quite contemplative style rather grew on me. Most crime fiction have One Big Crime that it focuses on. There might be smaller storylines as well, but in general they are connected in some way to the One Big Crime. That wasn’t the case with this book and it made for a different read. Most of the cases were solved in one or two chapters but they added to a whole that was really rather nice. I would put this book in the very cozy cozy mysteries.

Although (as frequent readers of this blog will know) I love mystery books, that wasn’t actually what I loved the most about THIS book. My favourite part of this book was the chapter titled All Those Years Ago which is narrated by Mme Ramotswe’s father and tells both his story and the story of Botswana and its people. It was a beautiful, evocative and somewhat sad chapter. But it really stuck with me. And I think that the descriptions in this chapter and in subsequent chapters are where McCall Smith’s strength really lies, or perhaps it is my own prejudice, I love myself a good description.

I also really enjoyed Mme Ramotswe’s independence (and this is why I am counting it towards Women Unbound). She is set on doing things her way, and although she employs the help of men, especially her friend Mr J. L. B. Matekoni, she does so on her own terms. I also liked getting her back story in the way we got it. She tells the story in a very matter of fact way, but throughout the rest of the book it becomes very clear how her past has influenced both her chosen career and her decision making process.

The book is mainly comprised of short chapters and is in itself not a very long book, the length of the book doesn’t really matter to me (other than the fact that I am now in desperate need of the next one in the series) but I did like the short chapters. I read much of the book at work (yep I can occasionally read at work, one of the few perks (the other being the fact that we wear scrubs and comfy sandals…after years of suits, pantyhose and high heels trust me this is a perk)). The short chapters made it easy to put down the book to do, you know, actual work without loosing the plot.

I will definitely be reading more of McCall Smith (especially since will be going to at least one presentation by him in September at Bok och Biblioteksmässan which is focusing on Africa this year).

Purchase The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency from



Copyright ©2010 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.


Nymeth said...

It sounds like I really ought to read this before too long. McCall Smith's writing is indeed wonderful - I adored his book for the Canongate Myth Series, Dream Angus.

Kristen M. said...

I own this first one but haven't read it yet. I'm just waiting until I have time to immerse myself in the whole series.

Carin B. said...

I really liked this book. I listened to it on audio which I actually really enjoyed. What do you do that you get to wear scrubs to work? I do like wearing scrubs. You never have to iron or decide what you are going to wear. You just throw them on and go. I love that. :)

Zee said...

Nymeth~~I really want to read his Scotland Street series. I think I will also have to read the Cannogate myth series.

Kristen~~I wish I could immerse myself into the whole series. Maybe next year.

Carin~~I might look into getting the rest of the series in audio. I work at a nursing home.

Aarti said...

I've not read McCall Smith. Well, I feel like I tried to read one book by him, but I don't remember what it was and I don't remember my reaction, so I assume it couldn't have made a huge impact on me. I should give him another try!

Lindsey Sparks said...

I just discovered McCall Smith this year and love him! I've read 44 Scotland Street and La's Orchestra Saves the World so far. I think I'll have to pick up this one on my next library trip.

Rebecca Reid said...

McCall Smith was MY author a few years ago. I read everything he'd written. Of course, now there is a lot more out there and I haven't yet read it...

I really enjoyed the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency and I HATE mysteries. I think I don't consider it mystery so much as commentary on society -- and a wonderful personality in the form of Mma Ramatswe.