"No one can be lonely who has a book for company." ~ Nelle Reagan

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

This book was highly recommended and spent some time on the New York Times Bestseller List. 

This is the story of Mma (pronounced "ma" with a long a) Precious Ramotswe, a traditional African woman who, with an inheritance from her father, begins the first ever detective agency run by a woman.  She receives some flack for this because it certainly is not tradtional.  Some would say a woman's place is in the home, raising children and chickens!  Not Precious.  In this respect she is anything but traditional.

This is the book of many stories of cases Mma Ramotswe quickly and easily solves.  She is intuitive and sharp.  She knows people.  It's the way she solves crimes that beguiles the reader.  From cheating husbands, to wayward children to a missing child.  How she knows to wait at a riverside for a crocodile to solve the case of a missing man, I shall not know but she does!  Precious solves mysteries with apparent ease, sometimes too much so for me. I wish the author had dwelt a little more on building the cases, creating conflict, and prolonged resolve. Perhaps that is his style.

Amusing and enthralling and yet never too descriptive nor vulgar, which I personally prefer, this story is charming.  Alexander McCall Smith's first foray into the life of Precious and her people portrays the rarely seen side of Afrikaans, the good and bad while still presenting this country in a favorable light. You leave here desiring to see, touch, and feel the land of great skies, thorn trees and people who understand the meaning of things.

When asked how Alexander created Precious his response was:
  "There is no particular person upon whom Precious Ramotswe is based, but there is an incident. Years ago I was in Botswana, staying with friends in a small town called Mochudi. A woman in the town wished to give my friends a chicken to celebrate Botswana National Day. I watched as this woman—traditionally built, like Mma Ramotswe—chased the chicken round the yard and eventually caught it. She made a clucking noise as she ran. The chicken looked miserable. She looked very cheerful. At that moment I thought that I might write a book about a cheerful woman of traditional build."

And that, my friends, is but a glimpse into the character that is Precious.  Mr. Smith's site is a must see of  What's What and Who's Who http://www.randomhouse.com/features/mccallsmith/main.php   
African music, light and cheerful, plays in the background as you peruse the site. Here you find photos, descriptives and an insightful look into the life that is Precious'.  Under features check out the Reading Guide for this series of which The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is the first.

4/5 I shall actively seek more in this series.


  1. There's a new series coming out by Alexander McCall Smith called Corduroy Mansions. Read a review here:

  2. Hi Shirley
    I've just arrived at your blog via "Carla Loves Photography".

    I read this book quite a while ago and loved it. I haven't read any more in the series, but I feel it's now time I did!
    I'm going to check out the "Corduroy Mansions" url you've given - thank you.

    I'll be back as I read a lot and I love book blogs!!

    Have a great weekend!

  3. Hi Shirley,

    I also arrived via "Carla Loves Photography."

    I haven't read this series, but I feel in love with the television miniseries a few months ago. Did you see it? I would love to hear your thoughts.


  4. Shane and Josephine, welcome to My Bookshelf. I have yet to see the series on television but have heard great things about it. I am more of a reader, I am afraid, though I love movies.

    I anxiously await Corduroy Mansions!

  5. Shane, thanks for stopping by. I haven't yet read Corduroy Mansions. Have you picked up a copy yet?


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