April 06, 2003

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency,
Tears of the Giraffe,
Morality for Beautiful Girls,
by Alexander McCall Smith

These books have been on the tables at the Large Chain Bookstore I go to for quite some time. I've picked them up, browsed them, laid them down etc. several times before taking the plunge and buying them. The premise is so, well, different from most mysteries that are out there that I was a little skeptical about them.

Boy, was I wrong. They reminded me of and and, oddly, some of Jan Karon's books, without the Christian theme. I just felt happy when I read them. I like Mma Ramotswe. I'd love to sit down and have a cup of bush tea with her. And tell her my problems.

The bookstore categorizes these as Mysteries, a title that is deceiving and not particularly acute on their part. I suppose every book needs its place on some shelf or another. The books are about Mma Ramotswe, who sets up a detective service after the death of her father leaves her with a legacy. She is widowed, independent and wants to help people. She hires a secretary, because every detective agency must have one, and her friend, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, gives her a typewriter. She puts out a sign and she's set for business. And she sends away for a manual on running a private eye service which gives her much wise advice to supplement her wealth of common sense and knowledge of the ways of people. Plus she has read Agatha Christie.

The whole thing is tongue in cheek most of the time. Mma makes horribly sexist statements about men that, coming from anyone else would offend, but seem fairly reasonable flowing from her mouth. She has much to say about women as well so she balances out nicely. Botswana is a major character of the book; you can almost smell and feel it. National pride is there and the horrific problem of AIDS is lightly addressed while not being made the theme of the book. The theme of the book is Mma Ramotswe and her wish to help. And her love of Botswana.

I haven't enjoyed a series so much since I discovered Laurie King. If you like light, wry detective stories go and get them. The next one comes out this spring.

Posted by Deb English at April 6, 2003 08:24 PM