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Monday, July 19, 2010

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



Yes, I am way behind the times but I finally read this charming little book. I don't think it really is a mystery even though a lot of the chapters present themselves as such (natural for a book about a detective agency.) It was a nice eye-opener into a land (Botswana) I know nothing about, and a culture and people. (Keep an eye out for Wondrous Words Wednesday as I had to look up a lot of words.)
Mma Precious Ramotswe is resourceful, clever, and persistent, all excellent traits for a lady detective. Although the book doesn't exactly explain any of the cultural differences, she's an excellent guide through unique African issues, events, and traditions. At first I wasn't sure I was going to like when it flashed back to explain both Precious's and Obed's (her father) pasts, but that did work. But I was so enjoying her cases I didn't want those to stop. I love that this book doesn't immediately have her investigating murders and other dangerous cases. Instead, it's mostly cheating or vanished husbands, which I understand is the bread and butter of the majority of detective agencies, despite what TV may show us.
The languid and simple style belies a deeper intention of McCall Smith's: to introduce Western readers to a side of Africa we've never seen, where people live in the modern world and have contemporary jobs just like we do, and it's not all violence and war like we see on the news. This is certainly a very different book than anything I've read for a long time. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with the warm and practical Precious Ramotswe, and I wish her continued success with her Detective Agency.

9 comments:

Brenna said...

This is a fun series. Whenever I feel like my reading has gotten a little too heavy I turn to the next book in this series - they make me smile.

Bailey said...

I recently read and reviewed the first book in this series also! I found it to be pleasant and enjoyable, and someday I'll move on to book #2.

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Chelle said...

This sounds really good. Thanks for the review!

Hannah Stoneham said...

this is a book that I have, shamefully, never read, even though I have bought it as a gift a couple of times. Time to pick it up myself methinks. Thanks for sharing

Hannah

Carin S. said...

wow, and I thought I was the last person to read this book! :)

Pammy pam said...

oh how i wanted to enjoy this book. but i didnt. i didnt even finish it. i made the mistake of watching the HBO series first. and even then i didnt finish the series. i dont get what all the hype is about.

i am glad someone is enjoying it!

DCMetroreader said...

I have yet to read this series, but haven't gotten to it yet. Thanks for the reminder :-)

Becky (Page Turners) said...

Igreat isn't it! I haven't read the whole series but I hope to one day. I love the way culture and mystery blend so well together. I like you I also love that the mysteries are every day mysteries. Have you seen the tv show? Its pretty good too.

If you like this you might like the Phryne Fisher series of books by Kerry Greenwood. Heres my review of one of them:
http://book-lovers-inc.blogspot.com/2010/07/review-murder-on-midsummer-night-by.html

Jeane said...

I read a short story collection by this author recently- and really enjoyed it. I'd always heard of this series but never picked it up. Your review has certainly intrigued me!