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

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3.75  ·  Rating Details ·  185,730 Ratings  ·  9,212 Reviews
This remarkably fresh and charming best-seller took the world by storm upon its publication. It has since earned two Booker Judges' Special Recommendations and was voted one of the "International Books of the Year and the Millennium" by the Times Literary Supplement. Mma "Precious" Ramotswe sets up a detective agency in Botswana on the edge of the Kalahari Desert, making h ...more
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Published February 18th 2003 by Recorded Books (first published 1998)
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Lizzie I don't know if you're still interested in reading this series or not but I fell in love with it from the first book (I believe there are currently 14…moreI don't know if you're still interested in reading this series or not but I fell in love with it from the first book (I believe there are currently 14 in the series, I'm on book eight). It's not a wildly exciting or mysterious series but there is just something about it that I love. There are exciting parts don't get me wrong but It's a very laid back read. The books are centered more on the people and the main characters than they are mystery. The author really makes you feel like you're in Botswana with Mma Ramotswe (the main character). If you like heartfelt, interesting books that transport you to places that are most definitely not your own I would say to check this out! (less)
Darlene I recommend reading them in order because it helps you get to know the characters better and watch them "grow." However, many of the books will…moreI recommend reading them in order because it helps you get to know the characters better and watch them "grow." However, many of the books will explain things by mentioning what happened in the other books, so you can get by without reading them in order.(less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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ebnewberry Newberry
Sep 11, 2007 ebnewberry Newberry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Will Byrnes
Oct 20, 2008 Will Byrnes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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)
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Sh3lly ✨ Bring on the Weird ✨

I feel like I should post a bit of a disclaimer first: This is not a book I would have chosen for myself. I picked it as my last challenge ("read a book set in Africa") for the Saucy Wenches 2016 Reading Challenge.

That being said, this was a decent little story. It had a "cozy mystery" vibe. It wasn't complicated and a lot of the story in the beginning was backstory on Mma Ramotswe, the main character. I liked her. She is an unconventional leading lady - fat (we hear her described as such multi
...more
Fabian
Sep 25, 2008 Fabian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone with 3-4 hrs to spare--doesn't care much for tv
I read about Africa & quickly want to be transported there. For a simpler 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, as much as 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 Botswa
...more
Gail
Oct 09, 2007 Gail rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Kira
Aug 13, 2007 Kira rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Eric Bjerke
Jun 23, 2008 Eric Bjerke rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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…”

Preciou
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Lula
Mar 14, 2008 Lula rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Anuradha
"Women are the ones who knows what's going on," she said quietly . "They are the ones with eyes. Have you not heard of Agatha Christie?" I love Mma Ramotswe. She is funny, wonderful, brave, and unapologetically a feminist. Sure, she's made mistakes. Sure, she's done stupid things, but then again, that just gives her more character. Detective agencies rely on human intuition and intelligence, both of which Mma Ramotswe had in abundance. No inventory would ever include those, of course.

I was b
...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
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
Caro M.
This book was built on slow paced descriptions of African - Botswanian, to be precise - life and on the charismatic character of Mma Ramotswe, the first lady detective in Botswana. I didn't mind the slow pace, and I loved Precious Ramotswe.

description

Also, I didn't mind that some mysteries were rather predictable and there wasn't any crazy action with shooting and whatnot. I enjoyed the "slice of life" pictures of Africa a lot. The warm relationship between Precious and her father was truly touching.
This
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Brian
Jan 08, 2009 Brian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 03, 2008 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.
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Ace
Jan 03, 2015 Ace rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a refreshing change to read the great little Botswanian mysteries that unfold, as the wonderfully strong and fiercely independent Precious Ramotswe sets up her agency. I will be reading the rest of this series for sure and I must learn how to cook chicken with pumpkin!

"She stopped. 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.
...more
Becky
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
Beth
May 16, 2008 Beth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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 15, 2012 David rated it really liked it
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
Dash fan
Mar 28, 2017 Dash fan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
This book was a good read. Not my usual books but i did enjoy it.
It had something for everyone, mystery and a little intrigue, culture and strength.

The No1 Ladies Detective agency is based in Boswana.
Mma Ramotswe is the only female detective and it's her job to help solve mysteries.
The cases are different but centered around missing people and cheating husband's.

It's not your normal detective book where there are murders to be solved etc..
It's more about helping people, especially women uncover
...more
Kandice
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Kirsti (Melbourne on my mind)
The start of this book was a little rocky for me. It starts with a mystery, then we're thrown back into Precious Ramotswe's backstory all the way back to childhood. And we have several chapters of that before we actually get back into the story.

That said, I ended up really enjoying this. Yes, each of the chapters seems more or less like a standalone case, but the way everything was woven together in the end was delightful. Definitely looking forward to seeing how this series progresses!
Camie
Oct 21, 2013 Camie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What's not to like about this simply written story featuring Precious Ramotswe who sets up the only detective agency in Botswana and with all of the training a single course manual can provide combined with a well tuned "woman's intuition " sets off in her tiny white van sporting her unabashedly sturdy "Traditional" figure and an inquisitive mind to solve the cases brought to her by clients in her little beloved corner of Africa. The first in a series which has numerous awards. 4 stars
Happyreader
Mar 10, 2008 Happyreader rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Beth A.
Feb 27, 2008 Beth A. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ally Bishop
Oct 30, 2010 Ally Bishop rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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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 18 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.” 2175 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.” 89 likes
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