The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency – Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith has a new fan. Me!

McCall Smith is one of those really cool authors that you always hear about but never really get around to actually reading. That was my relationship with McCall Smith. Until my neighbour reminded me about him and I coincidentally found his first book, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, for a steal at a charity bookshop in Kloof. So the stars has aligned for me to tuck into some Alexander McCall Smith.

[Just for interest sake, my neighbour was busy reading Baking Cakes in Kigali when she mentioned to me that author Gaile Parkin’s style reminds her of Alexander McCall Smith – which she’s totally right about. Want to read the Baking Cakes in Kigali review? Click here.]

On some level, I feel like I shouldn’t even be writing this review! I mean, who HASN’T been living under a rock like me and hasn’t ready The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency?? I’m sure there’s a handful of you out there, so for all of you … LISTEN UP!

You’ll meet Mma Precious Ramotswe, who sets up her detective agency in Gabarone, Botswana, from the money which she inherits upon the passing of her elderly father. Of course, her father had advised her to buy a sensible, stable business, such as a butchery – but there’s no ordering Mma Ramotswe around. A detective agency is what she wants and it’s a detective agency she finally gets, with the following inventory: a tiny white van, two desks, two chairs, a telephone and an old typewriter.

“What else does a detective agency really need? Detective agencies rely on human intuition and intelligence, both of which Mma Ramotswe had in abundance. No inventory would ever include those, of course.”

And so we go, exploring more of Mma Ramotswe’s life. From being a promising young student and the absolute apple of her father’s eye. But Mma Ramotswe has her own stories and own heartaches which have equipped her into being able to carry out her investigations to the best of her abilities – always finding out the truth – using less than orthodox ways!

“… this unlikely heroine specialises in missing husbands, wayward daughters, con men and imposters.”

I wondered after reading this book why Precious Ramotswe isn’t hailed in literature as one the best heroines this continent has ever produced. She’s totally out there – silently and gracefully kicking ass and taking names. She comes up against sexism and promptly puts men in their place, quietly offering another perspective. You can imagine how much flack she gets for choosing an odd career to get into. But she’s persistent and does her thing with all the grace in the world.

-Babongile Z

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