Sunday, January 19, 2014

Book review: The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency

The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency
Alexander McCall Smith
Pub. Date: 1998
ISBN: 978-1400034772
Pages:  235
public library sales
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Let’s stir things a bit here.
I enjoy good vibrant, suspenseful mysteries. As I had not yet read any by the famous Alexander McCall Smith, and felt a bit ashamed about it, I decided to remedy the situation a few months ago, and finally set to read this popular book.
Mma Ramotswe is the only lady private detective in Botswana. She set up her agency with money from her dad’s big cattle sale, when he died. After telling us about her dad and her own education, the author invites us to follow the detective in cases for her first clients. Actually, she always feels she shouldn’t agree on helping with some cases, but ends up doing it anyway, wanting to help desperate clients.
I got quite of a shock, seeing how boring the book was ! 

There are basically 60 pages of introduction. These pages were good on the background of the country, its landscape, weather, work, and the condition of the women there. I know nothing about Botswana, so that was fine, but it felt more like historical fiction than mystery, and did not help much in connecting the following cases.
The first case does not show up until page 73, briefly, and you have to wait until page 222, basically the end of the book, to get the end of that story, after a bunch of totally unrelated cases.
The rest of the book is a series of disconnected cases, interrupted besides by totally irrelevant chapters, describing her house for instance.
Apart from the poor structure of the book, I noticed that according to the narrator/author?, there are lots of unfaithful men in Botswana...

And I thought the joke on page 195 about not passing laws and constipation (not passing gas) was really of bad taste.

So, why is this book a “phenomenon,” to quote Goodreads?
If you read it and liked it, tell me, what’s the redeeming element I missed?
Are all his books comparable to this one? Or was he just warming up?
Let me know, let’s discuss and comment, here or on this page about a bunch of mysteries I read recently.

*Disclaimer - I purchased this book at a public library sale

 About the Author:
Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the international phenomenon The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie Series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, and the 44 Scotland Street series. He is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and has served on many national and international bodies concerned with bioethics. He was born in what is now known as Zimbabwe and he was a law professor at the University of Botswana. He lives in Scotland. Visit him online at, on Facebook, and on Twitter. [Goodreads]


  1. My late grandmother gave me this book, which she received from someone else who didn't want it, and I've never gotten around to reading it. I believe there was a short-run television series on HBO (though I could be wrong) a few years ago. After your review, I have no intent of ever reading it.

  2. that's funny how a book was passed unread between reluctant readers, lol

    1. To me, the cover isn't interesting, so I never had the urge to open the book.


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