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The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency [Paperback]

Alexander McCall Smith
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (305 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 6 2003 No 1 Ladies Detective Agency (Book 1)

Fans around the world adore the bestselling No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the basis of the HBO TV show, and its proprietor Precious Ramotswe, Botswana’s premier lady detective.  In this charming series, Mma  Ramotswe navigates her cases and her personal life with wisdom, and good humor—not to mention help from her loyal assistant, Grace Makutsi, and the occasional cup of tea. 

This first novel in Alexander McCall Smith’s widely acclaimed The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series tells the story of the delightfully cunning and enormously engaging Precious Ramotswe, who is drawn to her profession to “help people with problems in their lives.” Immediately upon setting up shop in a small storefront in Gaborone, she is hired to track down a missing husband, uncover a con man, and follow a wayward daughter. But the case that tugs at her heart, and lands her in danger, is a missing eleven-year-old boy, who may have been snatched by witchdoctors.

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency received two Booker Judges’ Special Recommendations and was voted one of the International Books of the Year and the Millennium by the Times Literary Supplement.

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Frequently Bought Together

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency + Tears of the Giraffe (No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, Book 2) + Morality for Beautiful Girls: A No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Novel (3)
Price For All Three: CDN$ 37.44

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From Amazon

Penzler Pick, July 2001: Working in a mystery tradition that will cause genre aficionados to think of such classic sleuths as Melville Davisson Post's Uncle Abner or Robert van Gulik's Judge Dee, Alexander McCall Smith creates an African detective, Precious Ramotswe, who's their full-fledged heir.

It's the detective as folk hero, solving crimes through an innate, self-possessed wisdom that, combined with an understanding of human nature, invariably penetrates into the heart of a puzzle. If Miss Marple were fat and jolly and lived in Botswana--and decided to go against any conventional notion of what an unmarried woman should do, spending the money she got from selling her late father's cattle to set up a Ladies' Detective Agency--then you have an idea of how Precious sets herself up as her country's first female detective. Once the clients start showing up on her doorstep, Precious enjoys a pleasingly successful series of cases.

But the edge of the Kalahari is not St. Mary Mead, and the sign Precious orders, painted in brilliant colors, is anything but discreet. Pointing in the direction of the small building she had purchased to house her new business, it reads "THE NO. 1 LADIES DETECTIVE AGENCY. FOR ALL CONFIDENTIAL MATTERS AND ENQUIRIES. SATISFACTION GUARANTEED FOR ALL PARTIES. UNDER PERSONAL MANAGEMENT."

The solutions she comes up with, whether in the case of the clinic doctor with two quite different personalities (depending on the day of the week), or the man who had joined a Christian sect and seemingly vanished, or the kidnapped boy whose bones may or may not be those in a witch doctor's magic kit, are all sensible, logical, and satisfying. Smith's gently ironic tone is full of good humor towards his lively, intelligent heroine and towards her fellow Africans, who live their lives with dignity and with cautious acceptance of the confusions to which the world submits them. Precious Ramotswe is a remarkable creation, and The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency well deserves the praise it received from London's Times Literary Supplement. I look forward with great eagerness to the upcoming books featuring the memorable Miss Ramotswe, Tears of the Giraffe and Morality for Beautiful Girls, soon to be available in the U.S. --Otto Penzler --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

The African-born author of more than 50 books, from children's stories (The Perfect Hamburger) to scholarly works (Forensic Aspects of Sleep), turns his talents to detection in this artful, pleasing novel about Mma (aka Precious) Ramotswe, Botswana's one and only lady private detective. A series of vignettes linked to the establishment and growth of Mma Ramotswe's "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" serve not only to entertain but to explore conditions in Botswana in a way that is both penetrating and light thanks to Smith's deft touch. Mma Ramotswe's cases come slowly and hesitantly at first: women who suspect their husbands are cheating on them; a father worried that his daughter is sneaking off to see a boy; a missing child who may have been killed by witchdoctors to make medicine; a doctor who sometimes seems highly competent and sometimes seems to know almost nothing about medicine. The desultory pace is fine, since she has only a detective manual, the frequently cited example of Agatha Christie and her instincts to guide her. Mma Ramotswe's love of Africa, her wisdom and humor, shine through these pages as she shines her own light on the problems that vex her clients. Images of this large woman driving her tiny white van or sharing a cup of bush tea with a friend or client while working a case linger pleasantly. General audiences will welcome this little gem of a book just as much if not more than mystery readers.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sign me up as a fan..... June 29 2003
I bought this book because of a review I read in a magazine...can't remember which one.
Now, I have all the books in Alexander McCall's Smith's series about Precious Ramotswe, proud owner of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency in Botswana.
Unlike some reviews here, I can find no fault with the books. I agree they are not complex who-done-it thrillers, but Precious Ramotswe does not lead a thrilling life. She lives at a slower pace, more in tune with nature and her intuition than those of us in western civilization. The mysteries she solves are not that difficult, but she takes great pride in her professionalism and treats each client with great care and compassion.
I particularly like the way I feel when I read about the daily happenings in Mma Ramotswe's life. I like reading about her house on Zebra Drive; her bright secretary (who scored 97% at the Botswana Secretarial College); her companion Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni; her life growing up as the beloved daughter of a devoted father who left his life's work to her so she could open her own business; her disastrous marriage; and the variety of people who seek out her professional assistance.
Some reviewers have compared Mma Ramotswe to Miss Marple. I guess the comparison fits, but it seems to me that Mma Ramotswe would prefer to belong in a category by herself....the first female private investigator in Botswana.
If you like the Jan Karon series about Father Tim and his beloved village of Mitford, then you might want to give The No 1. Ladies' Detective Series a try.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unusual location -- delightful characters Sept. 9 2001
By A Customer
Morality for Beautiful Girls is third in a series about Precious Ramotswe, a lady detective in Botswana, Africa. For this Midwestern reader the landscape, weather, and daily life in Botswana were fascinating and clearly depicted.
This is not your typical mystery--there is no murder to be solved. Ramotswe and her assistant detective cleverly handle a couple of cases for clients, but her personal life is just as interesting: moving the office, caring for two foster children, and handling the auto repair shop belonging to her fiance who has suddenly begun acting strangely. Ramotswe deals with both the problems of her clients and her personal life in a thorough and straight-forward manner.
I had to buy the first two books in the series (The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency, and Tears of the Giraffe) from Amazon.UK, so I was very happy to find this third book on
For something just a little different--highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Another Installment of Joy May 18 2004
After reading Alexander McCall Smith's first book in this series "The #1 Ladies Detective Agency" I felt I had to read the following books as well because they are so enjoyable.
"The Tears of the Giraffe" reads almost like a fable allowing us to determine whether or not lying for good or bad reasons can be wrong. It is an interesting delimma. I absolutely enjoy the way that Smith writes his characers. Precious Ramotswe, her secretary/assistant Mma Makutsi and her fiance Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni are immediately likable and often shyly funny in the way that they interact with one another. This book brings two orphan children into Mma Ramotswe's life and leaves a door open for the next installment.
The ending of the book is left with a wonderful fable-like suggestion about baskets being woven from the tears of a giraffe because that is all they have to give us. We can all give something no matter how small or insignificant it may seem and Alexander McCall Smith has given us a true treasure here.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another side of Mma Ramotswe June 19 2004
By rannoon
I am so happy she finally decided to get married and chose a well known person for his integrity and kindness. She made it clear though that she accepted his proposal not because she is a woman who needs a man to protect her nor to be his servant NO she was satisfied with her life and her job and hurt from her experience with one failed marriage that was still so fresh in her memory..
I love the series because of Mma's character. She wants to change and wants to learn about the modern world and life in the new century but doesn't shun her past .. on the contrary she is proud of her heritage and of her country and what makes it special. Through her investigations, Smith tackles various issues, he states Mma's point of view as the opinion of the learned people and leaders of her country and shows how a foreigner would percieve it... true and simple. He uses simple language, affirms the traditions of the country, draws the difference in behavior between past and present... Africa and the west.
It's a funny sad book, clash of culture and modernization. Enjoy reading as Mma unfolds the mysteries of life!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable second installment April 15 2004
Smith's first book in the series, _No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency_, was enjoyable and easy to read. I found the second installment in the series, _Tears of the Giraffe_ even more enjoyable than the first. The characters continue to develop nicely and the stories held my attention better than the initial book. I particularly liked the introduction of the children from the orphan farm, and look forward to the parts they will play in the following books.
The writing style and the stories are simple in nature, with morals that transcend the book. The books are in fact a wonderful advertisement for the country of Botswana, and Africa itself. Great emphasis is placed upon morality, respect and love.
I look forward to the other books about Mma Ramotswe and the rest of the ensemble.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome
A fast flowing story set, Tears of the Giraffe is one of the best books I have read. With good values expressed through characters that are lively, this book showed a beautiful... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Peter Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars Ladies Detective Agency
I watched the tv version and liked the book very much. Light reading and very easy to put down and pick up again.
Published 7 months ago by Sherilyn Fleischhacker
5.0 out of 5 stars Five stars for a true, funny and inspiring book.
It was very funny, real and authentic in the way the people in Botswana would think. I truly enjoy it immensely.
Published 9 months ago by Upset
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Series
This book takes me to another place. I feel part of the people of Botswana and find myself at times laughing out loud at the simple goodness of it.
Published 11 months ago by Peshagolda
3.0 out of 5 stars So so
Very amusing you have to like this style of writing ver witty and humorous. Nice short read easy to finish.
Published 20 months ago by Eky Ternamian
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad
Different style of writing. Once you read a few you begin to enjoy. Again the numbers of the series are not well marked. You end up reading out of order very annoying.
Published 20 months ago by Eky Ternamian
5.0 out of 5 stars Mma Rmotswe Rocks !!
I was in a mood to read some light, funny, uplifting books and I decided to read this book. Let me tell you, this is one of the AMAZING books that I've read so far. Read more
Published on April 3 2012 by Pratz
5.0 out of 5 stars The ladies number one detectivs agency
A very nice light read. The story is set in Botswana so you learn a lot about that country and the manners and customs of the people.
Published on March 29 2011 by R. Montague
5.0 out of 5 stars what a treat!
I can't believe it's taken me till now to read this book, what with the buzz around its first publication & subsequent sequels. Read more
Published on Aug. 13 2008 by B. A. Scharf
4.0 out of 5 stars African Wisdom
Written by a man, The No1 Ladies' Detective Agency has enough of a feminist persepctive for me to feel I was reading something actually written for me, rather than feeling as I... Read more
Published on Sept. 12 2007 by Jeane FREER
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