The No1 Ladies Detective Agency
Alexander McCall Smith
This book is about Precious Ramotswe, who has set up the ‘No1 Ladies Detective Agency’ in Botswana, advertising herself as the only female private detective in the area. Though the book she encounters a variety of mysteries – missing husbands, secret boyfriends and witch doctors – and goes about solving them in a logical but unique way.
One the major themes in this book is the exploration of Africa and African culture. I found it interesting to learn about the country and culture – especially the rich landscape and wildlife! The African setting allowed for a wider variety of mysteries and scenarios than you could get in an english detective novel (I mean, you don’t get a cobra stuck in your car over here). The “love of Africa” vibe is definitely one of the powerful aspects of this novel.
Another powerful theme seen in the books is humanity and the simple pleasures in life, its not an overwhelming or off-putting message, but it is there in an almost feel good manner.
I thought this book was well written, with clear and precise language used to allow you to clearly follow what is happening. The tone of the writing changes as the story develops (sometimes it is insightful, other times rather humorous) which makes for a very enjoyable and easy read. The structure of the plot is a little chaotic. The story jumps around chaotically from the past to present and mystery to mystery. However, it was still easy to follow and I felt that it gave the novel a more unique and engaging feel.
Precious Ramotswe is simply wonderful – a kind, clever and insightful woman who is not afraid to stand on her own two feet! She uses her brains, logic and shrewd observations of people and life around her to solve mysteries in a unique way. One of the things I really enjoyed in this novel was wondering how she would solve her next mystery! You do find out a bit about her past, and her abusive ex-husband in the beginning of the book, but it is not written in a way that demands sympathy or pity. Instead it is there to build up the depth of her character and to explain how she became the independent women we read about :).
Overall, I really loved this book – especially the african setting, Precious Ramotswe, the structure of the book and the simple but purposeful language. This is not your everyday detective or mystery novel, but I feel its unique feel is the best thing about it! I can’t wait to read the next books in the series :).