Saturday, October 17, 2009

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency - Alexander McCall Smith

Summary: The first novel in Alexander McCall Smith's widely acclaimed The No. 1 Detective Agency series tells the story of the delightfully cunning and enormously engaging Precious Ramotsw, who is drawn to her profession to "help people with the 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 that of a missing eleven-year-old boy, who may have been snatched by witch doctors.
Summary from book, cover photo from

My Review:
When Precious Ramotsw's father passes away leaving her with some extra money, she decides to open a detective agency.Her only knowledge of this field arrives from the Agatha Christie novels she has read, yet Precious is confident she can succeed. She finds a building, hires a secretary and opens the doors to the business she has dubbed the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, a name she can easily claim considering there are no other lady detectives in this small African town. Needless to say, Precious is in for an adventure running her own business and learning her profession along the way.

I have been in a reading slump the past few weeks. I just haven't been drawn into anything I've opened lately. So I was pleasantly surprised to find myself hooked after the first couple paragraphs of this book. Precious is a very charismatic lead character, likable in every way. She is witty, smart, and sassy. She is comfortable in her short size 22 body She is at ease with her gender, regardless of the guff she gets for it. She can poke fun at herself while still remaining respectable. As the helpful mechanic in this novel can attest to, there is nothing not to love about Precious.

And there is little one can find qualms about in this widely encompassing novel. Within these pages the reader is granted a glance into the African culture without detracting from the story line. There are multiple mysteries weaved seamlessly into the story, everything from the cheating husband to the mysterious doctor to a missing boy. The overall effect is an engaging, lighthearted story. This is a quick, entertaining and easy read. This author had a wonderfully relaxed writing style meant for those books you read in the tub or at the beach. He even manages to throw in just a touch of a love story.

I look forward to spending more time with Precious and will most likely be checking out additional books in this series. However there are already ten of them and I know myself well enough to realize that the appeal will be lost on me after the fifth or sixth. Therefore it might be worth just watching the series on HBO.

My Rating: 4 Stars

If I had to sum it up in one sentence (or two): A humorous, entertaining escape that reminds me exactly why I love to read. A gentle mystery without the crudeness found in many mystery stories.

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