Summary and book reviews of The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency

by Alexander McCall Smith

The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency
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    Feb 2001, 235 pages

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Book Summary

Precious Ramotswe has only just set up shop as Botswana's No.1 (and only) lady detective when she is hired to track down a missing husband, uncover a con man, and follow a wayward daughter. However, the case that tugs at her heart, and lands her in danger, is a missing eleven-year-old boy, who may have been snatched by witchdoctors.

First published in the UK in 1998, and in the USA in 2001 by Polygon. Republished in 2002 and 2003 by Anchor.

This first novel in Alexander McCall Smith's widely acclaimed The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series tells the story of the delightfully cunning and enormously engaging Precious Ramotswe, who is drawn to her profession to "help people with problems in their lives." Immediately upon setting up shop in a small storefront in Gaborone, she is hired to track down a missing husband, uncover a con man, and follow a wayward daughter. But the case that tugs at her heart, and lands her in danger, is a missing eleven-year-old boy, who may have been snatched by witchdoctors.

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency received two Booker Judges' Special Recommendations and was voted one of the International Books of the Year and the Millennium by the Times Literary Supplement.

The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency

What's What and Who's Who in THE NO. 1 LADIES' DETECTIVE AGENCY
Alexander McCall Smith's Guide to the World of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

First and foremost, Mma Ramotswe:
Mma is the term used to address a woman, and may be placed before her name. It is pronounced "ma" (with a long a)

Rra is the rough equivalent of "mister". It is pronounced "rar", but with a slight rolling of the second r.

Mma Ramotswe is the daughter of the late Obed Ramotswe. African English makes frequent use of the word late in this context. People say: "My father is late" rather than use more brutal expressions. At one point Mma Ramotswe refers to a "late dog" which had been run over by a steamroller. This shows great delicacy.

Mr J.L.B. Matekoni always uses his initials. Why this formality? People in Botswana can be fairly formal with one another. In Mr J.L.B. Matekoni's case, that is what he has always been called and nobody has ever found out what the ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
When Precious Ramotswe decides to use the money her beloved father left her to open the first ever Ladies' Detective Agency in Botswana, everyone is skeptical. "Can women be detectives?" asks the bank's lawyer. Mma Ramotswe herself feels unsure of her success. After all, her only assets are a tiny white van, two desks, two chairs, a telephone, an old typewriter, a teapot, and three teacups. But she does possess the intangible assets of intuition and intelligence. These she has in great supply, along with perseverance, a keen knowledge of the human mind and heart, a steadfast sense of right and wrong, and a personality that inspires trust and loquaciousness in nearly all who meet her. What she also has is a deep love for Africa generally and...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

Scotland on Sunday

Highly amusing, intelligent and heart-warming

Los Angeles Times

Smart and sassy...Precious' progress is charted in passages that have the power to amuse or shock or touch the heart, sometimes all at once.

The New York Times Book Review

The Miss Marple of Botswana.

John Lewell, Femaledetective.com

Why is this novel so good?…It is almost impossible to pin down such an inspired invention.

Barbara Peters, The Poisoned Pen

Practical, non-judgemental, filled with laughter but determination, Precious never quails....I loved every word.

The Wall Street Journal

One of the most entrancing literary treats of many a year…. A tapestry of extraordinary nuance and richness.

Publisher's Weekly

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.

The Sunday Telegraph - Anthony Daniels

The author's prose has the merits of simplicity, euphony and precision. His descriptions leave one as if standing in the Botswana landscape. This is art that conceals art. I haven't read anything with such alloyed pleasure for a long time.

Author Blurb Gerald Kaufman, Chairman of the 1999 BOOKER Prize Jury
Indeed, the effort involved would have been justified by just one of them, The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency

Author Blurb Amy Tan
...pure joy. It's about the mysteries of human nature. The writing is accessible and the prose is so beautiful; you can read this in one sitting.

Reader Reviews

Serena Scholl

The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency
Precious Ramotswe founds The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency, the first ever ladies detective agency in Botswana. The cases and lives of Ma Ramotswe and her assistant, Ma Makutsi play out like a sweet song - light and at the same time profound, ...   Read More

Muff

great summer read
A friend had recommended this book and others in the series but I just wasn't interested. Some time later, I got the book on CD and loved it! It helped with the pronunciation of the names and I agree that Lisette is a wonderful speaker. I have read ...   Read More

PhyllisC

This entire series is simply fabulous. The emotions displayed on every page are so real, so caring, so down-to-earth, so charming, and make us all wish to slow down and enjoy pumpkin more in our lives. I must give kudos as well to Lisette Lecat, the ...   Read More

Jaonie G

A most enjoyable read. I loved the simple plot line, the language and word choice, and the values that permeate the text: I can feel Africa on every page, not just read a book set on the continent. I loved being immersed so gracefully in a ...   Read More

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