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The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (Book 1) Paperback – February 6, 2003
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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
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
"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.
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I enjoyed this book a lot. It is interesting to me to read a little about the African way and their people. I really like the characters in the book also. Read morePublished 7 hours ago by DLM
I would give it zero sstars f I could. Waste of time spent reading it.Published 11 hours ago by Lynda Harris
Many years ago, I read this book and thought is was ok. After returning from a trip to South Africa this summer, I decided to give it another try since it is set in the... Read morePublished 3 days ago by Holly
Very well written and fun to read, especially like that the setting is Africa.Published 4 days ago by Amazon Customer
Nice change from the sultry romances & thrillers. No profanity, no nudity, no murders or violence or blood, only sensible Mma Matusky. Love this series, plan to read all of them.Published 7 days ago by Suzanne Baker
Thoroughly enjoyable. Gentle story with lots of thought provoking passages. Honesty and simplicity are valued. Sweet story.Published 8 days ago by Jill Bikowski
This series of books is an easy read. The story line is interesting enough to hold my interest and the character development stuff gives a bit of insight into the people from a... Read morePublished 9 days ago by Amazon Customer