Reading Challenges

May 2, 2011

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


I'm definitely a few years late on the bandwagon regarding Alexander McCall Smith's wildly popular series that begins with The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, but on the positive side, I won't have to wait impatiently for the follow-up, or follow-ups I should say. The twelfth book in the series was just released in March 2011. 

In the first novel, readers are introduced to the series' heroine, Precious Ramotswe, a single woman determined to establish and run Botwasana's first private detective agency. With absolutely no training whatsoever, but armed with a clear head and a keen sense of justice, Ramotswe finds that there are plenty of mysteries lurking about Southern Africa. 

From the banalities of adultery and mistaken identity to more complex cases of kidnapping and witchcraft, Ramotswe's tenacious investigating continually triumphs against the odds. Along the way, readers are treated to gorgeous images of the Botswanan landscape and insights into the culture of Southern Africa, in addition to a good dose of McCall Smith's favorite subject, ethics. 

Readers familiar with the author's Isabel Dalhousie series already know that McCall Smith's real-life background in bio-ethics regularly inspire him to explore moral dilemmas of the more everyday variety in his fiction. In The Ladies' No. 1 Detective Agency, Mma Ramotswe, as she's respectfully referred to, juggles the implications of each case she pursues. Questions linked to gender, multiculturalism and justice all factor in, proving that the solution to a mystery isn't always cut and dry...

McCall Smith succeeds at capturing all the trappings of a classic cozy mystery within a vibrant, entirely new setting. He has also created a fantastic heroine in Mma Ramotswe, whose greatest power lies equally in her vulnerability as a human being and her  uncompromising inner strength. The second novel in the series, Tears of the Giraffe, is already waiting on my shelf...
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