The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

by Alexander McCall Smith
started 7/10/07 finished 7/15/07

There were a couple of factors that prevented me from reading this series:

  1. I considered it an “old lady book”. There are certain books that Southern old ladies read. They are usually set in a small quaint town. The main characters knit, bake pies, and sometimes solve mysteries (Murder She Wrote).
  2. Although the characters are African, the author is of European descent. I make it a point not to read books with majority Black characters written by White people. I never think they get the “voice” right. (Exception to this rule: George Pelecanos and Barbara Hambly in her Benjamin January mysteries set in slavery-era New Orleans). Case in point: I used to read the James Patterson books that featured Alex Cross. The lead character is black and it is set in Washington, D.C. No brainer. There is a scene in one of the books where Alex is speaking with a visitor on his front porch. I don’t remember the details, but there is a short exchange with his young son in which the child responds with a curse word! In front of company! On the front porch! Alex may have said something benign like “watch your language”or something. A real black parent in inner city Washington, D.C. would have made such a show of beating his ass that the whole neighborhood would have come out on their porches to watch.

But, then I read reports that a television movie was being made based on The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. The cast includes Jill Scott, Anika Noni Rose, & Idris Elba. So I gave in and read it. The story follows an African woman, Precious Ramotswe, living in Botswana who uses money inherited from her father’s passing to open a detective agency, the first one opened by a woman in the whole country. She has no formal training and pretty much uses her common sense. Each chapter tells the story of a different case so it almost reads like a book of short stories. Smith successfully captures the voice of the African people that reside in these pages. It was a fast read and I look forward to reading the next 6 titles in the series.

Now, if they do to this book what they did to The Starter Wife

3 thoughts on “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

  1. yeah! i’m glad it passed muster. sandy does ‘true’ short stories too–heavenly date is one collection & girl who married a lion is another. the latter one has a preface by mma ramotswe. i also quite like his scotland street series mainly for his character of a utterly charming 6 year old boy who must deal with the world’s worst mother (who thinks she’s the best). and if you totally geek out on him, i highly recommend a lecture on cd (that i bought at the store so i know y’all have it). he’s a great (if rambling) speaker who continually makes you laugh because he’s laughing at himself and his writing. he’s speaking three times at the edinburgh book festival next month but unfortunately, they all sold out like lightning. still, i’m gonna try to see if i can score a ticket somehow. are there scalpers at book festivals?

  2. there may not be scalpers at book festivals, but i think it should be pretty easy to charm your way past the (burly?) book festival bouncers!

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