Book Review: The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

The No.1 Ladies‘ Detective Agency
by Alexander McCall Smith

Publication date: 2003
Publisher: Abacus
Pages: 233



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.

Meet Mma Ramotswe, the endearing, engaging, simply irresistible proprietress of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, the first and only detective agency in Botswana. With persistent observation, gentle intuition, and a keen desire to help people with the problems of their lives, she solves mysteries great and small for friends and strangers alike.

Source: Goodreads


I picked this book up because it featured in one of the textbooks I use to teach and felt I should culture myself rather than continue to blag my way through it! Having finished, I’m glad I’ve read it but as one of many in a series, ‘The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency’ is likely where this journey ends for me.

I didn’t hate it but I didn’t love it either. The story of Mma Ramotswe, her detective agency and her tiny white van is quaint, cosy and simple.

A lot of the story is providing background about Mma herself. Warm, friendly and full of wit, she’s a likeable character with charm and confidence. Her job is to solve the mysteries of the people of Botswana. These mysteries are tame, short and sweet, usually cheating husbands and stolen cars, solved in a single chapter. One investigated insurance fraud and another a doctor who’s ability seemed to change day by day and Mma is able to solve them all.

Conversational in manner, McCall Smith provides details of Botswana, a country I know very little about. He delves into the specifics, including the diamonds mines of South Africa and the men who go to work there, and the culture in general through a number of interesting characters and thought provoking messages.

“You can go through life and make new friends every year – every month practically – but there was never any substitutes for those friendships of childhood that survive into the adult years. Those are the ones in which we are bound to one another with hoops of steal.”

Sadly I just felt that this book was a little underwhelming, it took me a long time to finish as I wasn’t too interested in finding out what happened next.

“It would prove to be an eventful journey, even if nothing further were to happen during the final half hour. It did not.”

Overall rating: Short and sweet, the story of Mma Ramotswe was a little underwhelming and perhaps I’m not the target audience of this one as I am scoring “The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency” 3 stars.

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