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The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (Book 1) Paperback – February 6, 2003


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The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (Book 1) + Tears of the Giraffe (No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, Book 2) + Morality for Beautiful Girls (No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 235 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (February 6, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400034779
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400034772
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,253 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,548 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Penzler Pick, July 2001: Working in a mystery tradition that will cause genre aficionados to think of such classic sleuths as Melville Davisson Post's Uncle Abner or Robert van Gulik's Judge Dee, Alexander McCall Smith creates an African detective, Precious Ramotswe, who's their full-fledged heir.

It's the detective as folk hero, solving crimes through an innate, self-possessed wisdom that, combined with an understanding of human nature, invariably penetrates into the heart of a puzzle. If Miss Marple were fat and jolly and lived in Botswana--and decided to go against any conventional notion of what an unmarried woman should do, spending the money she got from selling her late father's cattle to set up a Ladies' Detective Agency--then you have an idea of how Precious sets herself up as her country's first female detective. Once the clients start showing up on her doorstep, Precious enjoys a pleasingly successful series of cases.

But the edge of the Kalahari is not St. Mary Mead, and the sign Precious orders, painted in brilliant colors, is anything but discreet. Pointing in the direction of the small building she had purchased to house her new business, it reads "THE NO. 1 LADIES DETECTIVE AGENCY. FOR ALL CONFIDENTIAL MATTERS AND ENQUIRIES. SATISFACTION GUARANTEED FOR ALL PARTIES. UNDER PERSONAL MANAGEMENT."

The solutions she comes up with, whether in the case of the clinic doctor with two quite different personalities (depending on the day of the week), or the man who had joined a Christian sect and seemingly vanished, or the kidnapped boy whose bones may or may not be those in a witch doctor's magic kit, are all sensible, logical, and satisfying. Smith's gently ironic tone is full of good humor towards his lively, intelligent heroine and towards her fellow Africans, who live their lives with dignity and with cautious acceptance of the confusions to which the world submits them. Precious Ramotswe is a remarkable creation, and The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency well deserves the praise it received from London's Times Literary Supplement. I look forward with great eagerness to the upcoming books featuring the memorable Miss Ramotswe, Tears of the Giraffe and Morality for Beautiful Girls, soon to be available in the U.S. --Otto Penzler --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

The African-born author of more than 50 books, from children's stories (The Perfect Hamburger) to scholarly works (Forensic Aspects of Sleep), turns his talents to detection in this artful, pleasing novel about Mma (aka Precious) Ramotswe, Botswana's one and only lady private detective. A series of vignettes linked to the establishment and growth of Mma Ramotswe's "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" serve not only to entertain but to explore conditions in Botswana in a way that is both penetrating and light thanks to Smith's deft touch. Mma Ramotswe's cases come slowly and hesitantly at first: women who suspect their husbands are cheating on them; a father worried that his daughter is sneaking off to see a boy; a missing child who may have been killed by witchdoctors to make medicine; a doctor who sometimes seems highly competent and sometimes seems to know almost nothing about medicine. The desultory pace is fine, since she has only a detective manual, the frequently cited example of Agatha Christie and her instincts to guide her. Mma Ramotswe's love of Africa, her wisdom and humor, shine through these pages as she shines her own light on the problems that vex her clients. Images of this large woman driving her tiny white van or sharing a cup of bush tea with a friend or client while working a case linger pleasantly. General audiences will welcome this little gem of a book just as much if not more than mystery readers.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

These stories are very much about character development and plot.
A. Woodley
Alexander McCall Smith's novel The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, set in Botswana is a thrill to read.
"ccarey17"
Lovely evocative writing, wonderful characters and a simple yet intriguing story.
J. Fercho

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

127 of 132 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 15, 2002
Format: Paperback
This second entry in Smith's Botswana-set series picks up right where the wonderful The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency left off. Indeed, the two books are utterly seamless, and it'd be a real shame to read this without reading its predecessor first. The book picks up with the engagement of "traditionally built" Precious Ramotswe, Botswana's sole woman detective, to local master mechanic Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni. While the structure is the same as the first book�a missing son as the central running mystery, and some smaller cases interspersed�the new couple's relationship is the real focus.
So, while Precious is asked by an American woman to find out what happened to her son, who disappeared from a commune ten years previously, she must also negotiate the pitfalls of setting up house with Mr. Matekoni, the acquisition of an engagement ring, and the dastardly schemes of Mr. Matekoni's nasty housekeeper, and the unexpected addition of two foster children to her household. All of which she does with her keen sense of human nature and wisdom. Her secretary/typist is also given increased attention, allowed to take on the case of a cheating wife all by herself.
Built into the stories are ruminations of the tensions between modernity and traditional values. There are a number of passages that attempt to capture the essence of Africa, and how that noble vision is under constant assault by greed, corruption, and power. The adventures of Precious and her cohort are a warm antidote to the often depressing news that dominates coverage of Africa in the West. Smith writes in a delightfully fluid and simple prose with pacing that makes the book quite difficult to put down. The series thankfully continues with Morality for Beautiful Girls and The Kalahari Typing School For Men, with further volumes to follow, one hopes.
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192 of 203 people found the following review helpful By JLind555 on March 21, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Precious Ramotswe is a comfortable size-22 African lady (none of your Euro/American size 6's for her, thank you very much) with a fund of mother-wit and a penchant for minding other people's business. Having survived a disastrous, abusive marriage and the death of her infant son, she turns a small legacy from her late father, whom she adored, into "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency", the only one of its kind in Botswana, or maybe in all of Africa. From shaky beginnings with non-paying clients and chauvinistic male attitudes ("Who ever heard of a woman detective?" demands a border policeman; "Haven't you ever heard of Agatha Christie?" Mma Ramotswe shoots back, not missing a beat), she builds up a small but solid clientele that brings her problems to solve concerning cheating husbands, wayward daughters, malingering employees trying to commit insurance fraud; and a spectacularly sinister case involving a missing eleven year old boy who may or may not have been murdered for witchcraft purposes. Giving Mma Ramotswe quiet but ever-present moral support, while keeping her old car from falling apart, is Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, who loves every inch of Mma Ramotswe's ample frame and is patiently waiting for the brick wall of her resistance to marriage to crumble, so she can make him the happiest man on earth.
Smith has written an enchanting book that is can be described as a cross between an engaging detective story and a love poem to Africa. Mma Ramotswe is as warm and as solid as the red earth of Botswana; she loves every inch of the Africa she knows and identifies with and wouldn't live anywhere else. She embodies the African traits of deep ties to family and community, concern for one's neighbors, and respect for tradition. She commands respect and she gets it. Smith has added a delightful and enduring creation to the pantheon of famous detectives in fiction. Jane Marple, move over. Or rather, make a separate space for Mma Ramotswe. She deserves a pedestal of her own.
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95 of 98 people found the following review helpful By Fafa Demasio on August 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
Oh, how I'm enjoying the continuing series in the story of Mma. Ramotswe, owner of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency in Botswana, Africa! I love this strong African woman who is proud of who and what she is and where she is from and I'm highly entertained by the clients and other characters that she comes across.
"We help people with the problems in their lives. We are not here to solve crimes," Mma. Ramotswe tells one client. Not your average detective, she and her staff of one (Mma. Makutsi, her secretary turned-assistant detective) help people from different backgrounds with varied problems. Mma. Ramotswe even has a personal problem to resolve when her fiancée (Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, owner of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors) starts acting in a strange manner without warning or reasoning.
I like the way the author brings out the close relationship between Mma. Ramotswe and Mr. Matekoni. The couple chooses to address each other formally but it is done in the context of respect, affection and love. The mannerisms and dialog between the other characters show the reader some of the cultural nuances in that part of the world.
The issue of morality -- how people treat each other, forgiveness, helping others -- comes up as the detectives work. On a job assignment, Mma. Makutsi goes in search of a beautiful girl with morals for a beauty pageant(hence the title). Mma. Ramotswe wrestles with the idea of whether some of her methods of detective work are moral.

Set to a vivid background of the dry but beautiful land of Botswana with its great Braham bulls and colorful people, Alexander McCall Smith describes scenes that remind me of the picturesque movies like OUT OF AFRICA and I DREAMED OF AFRICA.
MORALITY FOR BEAUTIFUL GIRLS is another fun book to read.
Fafa Demasio
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