July 04, 2003

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith

Deb English reviewed this some while back, and I was sufficiently intrigued that I bought when I came across it in a bookstore in Pacific Grove.

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is located in a small storefront at the foot of Kgale Hill in Gabarone, the capitol of Botswana. It is owned by Mma Ramotswe; she has precisely one employee, her secretary Mma Makutsi, who got a grade of 97 out of 100 at secretarial school but had trouble getting a job because she's not slim and pretty.

This is not a typical murder mystery; it's more the story of Mma Ramotswe's first cases, and how she came to be a detective to begin with. Along the way we learn quite a bit about her childhood, and also about her father's life in the mines in South Africa. It's got a dreamy, detached feeling about it, as if to emphasize the distance between the reader and Botswana. And for some odd reason, it keeps reminding me of Jan Karon's Mitford books.

Anyway, I liked it; it was charming, and I've already picked up the next couple of books in the series.

Posted by Will Duquette at July 4, 2003 05:05 PM

Deb said:

They reminded me of the Mitford books too. I think it had something to do with the sense of place that you get. Botswana, like Mitford, is another almost character in the books.

Will Duquette said:

Yes, that's true. I think it's also the sense of people caring for people that you see in the Mitford books, and the sense that goodness is a good thing, instead of just being too boring for fiction.