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The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #1)

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3.73  ·  Rating Details  ·  163,007 Ratings  ·  8,389 Reviews
The No.1 ladies' detective agency consists of one woman, the engaging and sassy Precious Ramotswe, who sets up shop in Gabarone, Botswana. This unlikely herione specialises in missing husbands, wayward daughters, con men and impostors.
Paperback, 235 pages
Published February 6th 2003 by Anchor (first published 1998)
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Diana Other books set in Africa, there's Out of Africa, don't remember author, but the Meryl Streep movie is based on it. If you don't mind going back 100…moreOther books set in Africa, there's Out of Africa, don't remember author, but the Meryl Streep movie is based on it. If you don't mind going back 100 yrs or so, H Rider Haggard wrote quite a few books set in Africa. He's famous for King Solomon's Mines, but there are more about Allan Quartermain and the mysterious Ayesha, an immortal goddess. "Ayesha", "She", "She and Alan" and more, action adventure styles, moderate compared to modern books and free on Project Gutenberg.. Of course there's Born Free, another book that became a movie. Also "The Power of One" by Bryce Courtenay, , I think it had a sequel. (less)
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1st out of 634 books — 1,746 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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ebnewberry Newberry
Jul 07, 2011 ebnewberry Newberry rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: ams, fiction
A lot of people are under the impression that Alexander Mccall Smith books are strictly for middle aged women. This is NOT the case at all. These books are for everyone. They are not even just for women. A lot of people are also under the impression that these books are mystery books. This is also a misconception. Mysteries are a very small part of these stories. These books are about humanity and the small things that make it so good to be both human and alive. I dare anyone who is not happy to ...more
Will Byrnes
Aug 19, 2015 Will Byrnes rated it really liked it
The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency is a delightful work and a quick read to boot. Smith alternates between small bits of back-story for the central character, Precious Ramotswe, a woman of traditional build, young-middle-aged (30s?) divorcee, heavy with intelligence, gumption and cunning, and the mysteries she unravels as the sole detective of the title agency.

description
Jill Scott as Precious Ramotswe and Anika Noni Rose as Grace Makutsi - from the HBO production

It is rich with payload on local (Botswana)
...more
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
I'm no fan of mystery, crime or detective books - the bore me, generally, though I loved Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher books in high school and Agatha Christie's Ten Little Niggers gave me chills (since renamed And Then There Were None, for obvious reasons - but I've got an old edition).

The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency is a real gem, however. I absolutely loved it. Wise, funny, intelligent, insightful and blushing with vigour and a heartfelt love of Africa, I'm not in the least surprised this
...more
Gail
Oct 30, 2009 Gail rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: lovers of mysteries and stories about Africa
This collection of vignettes disguised as a novel was a great read. The main character is a gentle African woman who decides to be a detective to help other people. She is a delightful character, with light humor and a big heart. Agency isn't like any other detective novels...the characters are much more developed and the "mysteries" aren't the usual murders, whether cosy or hard-boiled. If you'd like a sweet trip to another culture, calmer and gnetler than ours, this is a book for you.
Eric Bjerke
Jun 23, 2008 Eric Bjerke rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Eric by: Deb Dooley
I put off reading this series for a long time until I found out that it wasn't a book for "ladies," but one to be enjoyed by readers of both sexes--and enjoy it I did.

In its simple and conversational manner, this book taught me a little bit about many things: Botswana, African culture in general, working in the diamond mines of South Africa, and human nature. Through the first-person account of Precious Ramotswe we are treated to an assortment of quirky detective stories that are intertwined wi
...more
Kira
Oct 01, 2007 Kira rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Just could not get past the very obvious fact that this book is written by a white guy, trying to tell a story through the eyes of a Botswana(ese?) woman. It felt a bit patronising, as in, look how simply these people live, just hanging out in the hot sun watching their cattle, oh to live so simply like this, oh look this woman is setting up a detective agency, can you imagine that, a woman? A black woman? How quaint and adorable, etc. etc. It was a cute story, but that was the problem, it was a ...more
Lula
May 29, 2013 Lula rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: the ladies
Recommended to Lula by: mom
Shelves: novels
I listened to this book on CD! The woman reading it is awesome! And the African Music in the background sets the scene perfectly! This is the perfect, lighthearted book to listen to in the car. I drove around daydreaming that I was driving through the Kalihari! Loved it!
PattyMacDotComma
5
A new favourite! I know, I know. I’m late to Precious Ramotswe and her wonderful business, and I shouldn’t have waited so long to enjoy these books. I loved this first book in the series. Funny, good-natured, good-hearted and poignant.

How a white Scotsman got into the head of a black lady in Botswana (or vice versa) is beyond me, but thank goodness for us readers that he did. She is absolutely delightful. “Mma Ramotswe was not tall—being blessed with generous girth, rather than height…”

Precious
...more
Wanda
If you have had a rough week, if your day has been hectic and you feel frazzled, I recommend sitting down with The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency for a while. I would describe the feeling of reading it to be “calming.” It is very unlike the North American or Scandinavian crime fiction genre.

I’ve never been to Botswana, but I felt like I had taken a mini-holiday there by the end of the book. And you get an insight into the people and their culture than you would never get as a tourist—a sense of h
...more
Brian
Mar 27, 2009 Brian rated it liked it
Pleasant and somewhat interesting, but not compelling.

It's my impression that mystery novels are part puzzle and part vehicle for depicting a cross-section of life in some locale. The puzzle part in No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency was never very elaborate. Most mysteries arose and resolved in the span of one chapter. In fact it seemed like the point was to showcase Precious' subtle knack for zeroing in and keeping things from being more complex than they need to be. Precious and her approach to s
...more
Ruth
Apr 24, 2010 Ruth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ruth by: Melinda
The only thing I didn't like was that it had to end.

I learned that you don't have to write elloquently to write a book. Marcos keeps telling me I should write children's books. This book was so simple and yet so enjoyable that it makes me wonder if I really could write a book too.

Because each mystery/case is so short and precise, it doesn't need all the suspense other books use. I think the suspense in this book is about finding out what the next problem wil be and how clever she is to solve it.
...more
Mark
Aug 07, 2011 Mark rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: never-again
i am probably the only person in the whole world who thinks this but these books are singularly underwhelming. Nothing ever happens. The characters are annoying. To be honest I did only read this first one but couldn't face another. Have refrained from putting this on my list till now cos I always thought I might try another and find it more interesting but then I thought there are enormous caverns of books as yet undiscovered. Why force myself to read another book of this just because I feel I ...more
Beth
May 16, 2008 Beth rated it it was amazing
I love all the books in this series. They are funny and insightful and full of wisdom. I can hardly wait for the next one to come out. These are books I love to read and don't hesitate to recommend to anyone. One friend I recommended them to didn't like them. She said it was like reading a book written for twelve-year-olds (Mr. McCall Smith has written several books for children). Well, maybe that's why I like them; I love to read childrens/young adult fiction!. I wouldn't hesitate to have a twe ...more
Becky
Nov 13, 2015 Becky rated it it was ok
I have not read very many books set in Africa or featuring African culture. In fact, I can only think of one other one off the top of my head, and I didn't care for it much. But both of them were similar in that they both told their story by way of mini-stories, and each one of those has something of a moral or message.

I've read so little in this niche that I don't know if that's something that is common in Africa-based storytelling, or if it just happens to be coincidental, but I can say for c
...more
Allison
I should have paid more attention to the reviewer who said that this is not a mystery. It's not. And that's what I was after. This is a collection of tales about people and their problems. The main character solves their problems in unconventional ways, and so maintains a private detective agency.

It is told in simplistic language, distancing me from the stories, which are rambling and random. There is little cohesion to the plot. It's a more realistic ebb and flow of lives that cross each other
...more
David
May 17, 2012 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lady detectives, Botswanans
I had heard of this series, and in the mood for a light mystery and fond of those that use settings that most American readers aren't familiar with, I gave the first book a try. I was pleasantly surprised by the combination of warmth and seriousness that Alexandra McCall Smith brought to his stories about Mma "Precious" Ramotswe.

Precious decides to go into business as a private detective after her no-good abusive husband leaves her. Mens' violence against women and the extreme sexism of African
...more
Kandice
Jan 02, 2010 Kandice rated it liked it
The best word to describe this book, start to finish, is charming. From the very first paragraph, it was sweet and endearing. It's the story of a middle aged woman opening the very first female detective agency in Africa with her inheritance.

Every book I've read that takes place in Africa is told in such a calm, simple voice. The worst things can be happening and yet calmness oozes off the page. People do bad things and no one gets overly upset or surprised. People ARE people and DO bad things.
...more
Zab
Nov 03, 2007 Zab rated it it was ok
This book is written in a style where it's not clear whether the narrator is just being very understated, or whether the characters are all just kinda simple-minded. I love that style in Daniel Pinkwater when he's writing about New Jersey, but I feel reservations about it when it's a white guy (even one raised in southern Africa) writing about Africa.

Granted, when the narrator makes sweeping generalizations about Africa as a whole (which happens a number of times), they are generally positive (e
...more
Happyreader
Mar 10, 2008 Happyreader rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
While the book had its charms, it was such a slow read. I kept thinking it would pick up and it didn't.
Kat
I was very excited when I received this book as a christmas gift. I hadn't read McCall Smith previously, and had heard wonderful things from just about everywhere about him. Not to mention that I love Africa. I was sure it would blow me away and so disappointed when it didn't. Perhaps it was my high expectations that ruined it for me, I shouldn't have expected so much, we all know what happens when we do.

Something felt off. It wasn't the story, the story was good, and the setting of course was j
...more
Beth A.
Mar 07, 2011 Beth A. rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
I love this series. More about relationships and life than mysteries.

The characters are just so real, people I actually wish I knew. It's full of warm friendly humor. She solves her cases with common sense and woman's intuition.

I remember one favorite scene. Mma Ramotswe is interviewing a client. She is a woman of "traditional build". She thinks to herself that the woman she is speaking to needs to admit her girth and buy a larger size dress. McCall Smith then moves to the point of view of the
...more
Amber
Apr 13, 2015 Amber rated it it was amazing
Shelves: librarybooks
Mma Precious Ramotwse decides to do a Detective Agency in her hometown of Gaborone in Africa with the money she got from selling her father's cattle herd after his death. When her business opens, she receives tons of cases to solve from a lost husband to a concerned father wondering if her daughter is going out with boys and more. Want to read more? Check this book out for yourself and find out.

This was a pretty good mystery. If you are a fan of mysteries, be sure to check this book out at your
...more
Ana Ovejero
Oct 27, 2015 Ana Ovejero rated it really liked it
"we are the ones who first ploughed the earth when Modise(God) made it,' ran an old Setswana poem. 'We were the ones who made the food. We are the ones who look after the men when they are little boys, when they are young men, and when they are old and about to die. We are always there. But we are just women, and nobody sees us.'
❁Lisa Ann❃
This was a quick read that I believe definitely falls into the cozy mystery subgenre. Since the book summary available through Goodreads provides an adequate description of the story, I am going to skip that aspect within my review.

The most difficult part of writing this is to provide a rating that accurately represents my feelings about the book. For full disclosure, I attempted to read this book in 2011 and about a third of the way through the book, decided to set it aside. In retrospect, it r
...more
Lightreads
May 16, 2014 Lightreads rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, mystery
A series of unrelated and predictably boring mysteries are solved in a predictably boring fashion by a really unboring detective.

I went back and forth on this a lot. It has a certain light-handed charm; this is a very simple narration with unexpected flashes of emotion beneath, and the protagonist has that unbending quality of people who don't break under grief because it simply wouldn't occur to them. But then again, I think I learned maybe three things about Botswana that I didn't already know
...more
Ivonne Rovira
Jun 06, 2012 Ivonne Rovira rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The debut novel in this series is the weakest one, but still good. Still, don't skip The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, as each novel builds on the one that came before.

The novel appears to be a collection of short stories about the cases of Mma Precious Ramotswe, a clever and gentle Botswanan woman who goes into the detective business armed only with a how-to book, an incomparable secretary and her own good sense. In the end, it turns out to be enough, and all the stories tie in together by th
...more
Ally Bishop
Nov 09, 2010 Ally Bishop rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Penny
Sep 11, 2007 Penny rated it liked it
Christmas present from my sister Gem. She found it reminded her of her childhood in South Africa.

The book has charm, especially the main character, Precious Ramotswe. (When her much beloved father is on his deathbed, he summons her and says that he is leaving her money for her to start a business that will make her financially secure, such as a butchery or bottle store. She takes his hand and tells him she will open a detective agency. He looks startled, says "But... but..." and then falls back
...more
Michele Brenton
Three chapters in. I have listened to adaptations of this on Radio 4 - but reading it is so much better. It has made me cry twice already and smile a LOT and laugh once or twice so far. I'm going to read it slowly to make the most of it. What a consummate story teller and talented writer Alexander McCall Smith is. Sheer bliss.
Sarah ~
Aug 13, 2012 Sarah ~ rated it really liked it

الرواية جميلة ..
استمتعت بقراءتها ..
وبوصف السيدة راموتسوي لبلدها وحكاياتها عن والدها ومغامراتها بعد افتتاحها وكالة التحريات النسائية الأولى ..
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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 ...more
More about Alexander McCall Smith...

Other Books in the Series

No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (1 - 10 of 16 books)
  • Tears of the Giraffe (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, #2)
  • Morality for Beautiful Girls (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #3)
  • The Kalahari Typing School for Men (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #4)
  • The Full Cupboard of Life (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #5)
  • In the Company of Cheerful Ladies (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #6)
  • Blue Shoes and Happiness (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #7)
  • The Good Husband of Zebra Drive (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #8)
  • The Miracle at Speedy Motors (No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency #9)
  • Tea Time for the Traditionally Built (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #10)
  • The Double Comfort Safari Club (No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency #11)

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“You can go through life and make new friends every year - every month practically - but there was never any substitute for those friendships of childhood that survive into adult years. Those are the ones in which we are bound to one another with hoops of steel.” 2110 likes
“It was time to take the pumpkin out of the pot and eat it. In the final analysis, that was what solved these big problems of life. You could think and think and get nowhere, but you still had to eat your pumpkin. That brought you down to earth. That gave you a reason for going on. Pumpkin.” 82 likes
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