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

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  131,852 ratings  ·  7,491 reviews
Precious Ramotswe in Botswana sits in the shade and ponders the wisdom of her cattle farmer father, observes her neighbors, and cares for employers and subjects with humor. A clinic doctor has two different personalities depending on the day of the week. A Christian sect member vanishes. A witch doctor may have the bones of a kidnapped boy in his magic kit.
Paperback, 235 pages
Published February 6th 2003 by Anchor (first published 1998)
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One for the Money by Janet EvanovichThe No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall SmithCrocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth PetersChocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne FlukeThe Cat Who Could Read Backwards by Lilian Jackson Braun
Cozy Mystery Series
2nd out of 413 books — 1,276 voters
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg LarssonAnd Then There Were None by Agatha ChristieAngels & Demons by Dan BrownRebecca by Daphne du MaurierIn Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Best Crime & Mystery Books
48th out of 4,387 books — 10,045 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 5 of 5 stars
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
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
Oct 30, 2009 Gail rated it 4 of 5 stars
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 3 of 5 stars
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
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
May 29, 2013 Lula rated it 4 of 5 stars
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!
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
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
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
While the book had its charms, it was such a slow read. I kept thinking it would pick up and it didn't.
May 17, 2012 David rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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
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
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Jan 02, 2012 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Mystery Fans
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Ultimate Reading List
I'm a fan of mystery novels, although I often find myself less than happy with the subgenre this corresponds to, the so-called "cozy mystery." Several things though lift this above the usual book on the mystery aisle. The style is simple, even spare, and the structure rather loose, but Smith's detective, Precious Ramotswe, is charming and clever--a worthy successor to the detectives that she mentions as her inspiration more than once, those of Agatha Christie. Like Christie's Miss Marple, she's...more
Sep 28, 2008 Fabian rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone with 3-4 hrs to spare--doesn't care much for tv
I read about Africa and I quickly want to be transported there. I want a more simple life...

The heart of this novel is its feminist protagonist, Mma Ramotswe who lives in a precious town in Gaborone, still untouched by technology or South African cosmopolitanism. This book is extremely feminist, in a very good, positive and enlightening way and it is anti-colonialist.

But to counter this notion there is a heartwarming case that Mma Ramotswe, the number one (and sole) female detective in Botswana...more
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
Julie Davis
I'm rereading this ... via audio which is simply wonderful. I really enjoyed this cozy mystery the first time I read it, set in Botswana, which has plenty of details so that one feels one knows what it might be like to live there. The audiobook is making me enjoy it all over again. It is a nice, comforting book for those stressful times in one's life.
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.
Mar 07, 2009 Luann rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Luann by: Verona Jarvis
Excellent! I enjoyed this a lot. Mma Ramotswe is a fun, common-sense character and a great detective. She reminds me of Miss Marple or Mrs. Pollifax. I'll definitely read another in the series sometime.
Sarah ( Paris )

الرواية جميلة ..
استمتعت بقراءتها ..
وبوصف السيدة راموتسوي لبلدها وحكاياتها عن والدها ومغامراتها بعد افتتاحها وكالة التحريات النسائية الأولى ..
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
Tara Chevrestt
An amusing read, I'll say that. Precious is a large, single woman in Botswana who opens her very own detective agency with her inheritance upon her father's death. She gets some interesting cases.. A man drowned and eaten by a crocodile, a woman who suspects her husband is driving a stolen car and wants it returned to its rightful owners, and even some voodoo finds its way into Precious's case files.

Precious was a little too good to be true. I also never felt like I got to know her. Overall, th...more
Nov 24, 2012 Wayne rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those needing a break from the heavy stuff but still wanting the light but thoughtful
Recommended to Wayne by: a birthday present
Since writing this review I have watched the TV series, which was REALLY delightful.Don't know if any more series have been made, but I would certainly watch.
5 STARS...due to no sign of authorial axe-grinding which I mention in the review below.

This was a very pleasant and entertaining read, although it wasn't as quirky as all the publicity and "talk" led me to believe. ( But THAT always happens!!!)It is a series of short stories about the solving of several mysteries our heroine is e...more
Anne Hawn Smith
I love this book! I think I have read it 3 times. Every time a new one comes out, I go back and read them all again. I think that's because these books are not about plot, they are about relationships. Precious Ramotswe is a wonderful character and I would truly love to meet her. The books are beautifully written and remind me of Alan Patton's, Cry the Beloved Country. Both have captured the timelessness of Africa.

Precious Ramotswe solves problems for her clients, but the work of the agency is m...more
I thought this book was horribly boring. The writing was very weak and far too simple for my taste. I didn't enjoy the narrator of this audio version at all. I made myself finish because I know this series is really popular and has made many lists. I honestly have no idea why.

I found the main character to be quite annoying. I admired her "go getter" attitude in establishing her own business, but quickly became agitated with the whole ordeal once I realized she had no business sense whatsoever a...more
Jan 02, 2012 Pragya rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Asmah, Brittany, Navdeep
Recommended to Pragya by: Kimberly
I have been to Botswana and back, with this book. Refreshing mystery tales, almost like short stories in themselves. I took an instant liking to the character of Mma Ramotswe, self-made, determined woman who opens up a ladies detective agency which was unheard of in that town. With her intuition and thinking abilities, she solves one case after another with ease. The book takes you in from the very start with a case to solve. Though I did not like the change from the case to learning about the l...more
Very peaceful reading experience. McCall Smith is true to the African novel. This novel will not be hurried, and as is the tradition, the reader must first understand the past history. I just relaxed, read, and waited for the story to unfold.

The entire feeling of this book brought to mind my friends from college who were natives of Africa. I felt the language of this book echoed the way they spoke. It seems to me that Africa is a place where people have time to think and meditate, and it shows i...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I have heard so much about this book, but had no idea what to expect. I thought it would be a story that had nothing to do with the picture on the cover (as seems to be the trend lately) but it is actually a collection of small stories surrounding a woman who opened a detective agency in Africa. The smaller stories are connected but can stand alone, and work together to give a picture of her life and the lives of the people around her. Halfway through the stories shift to the people involved in...more
Jan 28, 2009 Jon rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jon by: Shannon
Closer to 3.5 stars.

This is my first foray into literature set in Africa, and Botswana in particular. Others have mentioned, as does the cover's blurbs, that this is story has hilarious elements in it. While some of Mma Ramotswe antics and detective techniques brought a smile to my face, most of what she relates is heartbreaking. I think my heart would burst with the pain and suffering Africans endure on a daily basis.

Mma Ramotswe is a strong, intelligent woman, full of wisdom and insight. Her...more
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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...
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) Blue Shoes and Happiness (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #7)

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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.” 1971 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.” 73 likes
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