Matthew Hunter's Reviews > The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
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May 07, 12

bookshelves: mystery-thriller
Recommended to Matthew by: Amanda Hunter
Read from May 04 to 07, 2012

Precious Ramotswe is a complex woman. She loves Botswana, Africa, its people, and her calling to serve them:

"She was a good detective, and a good woman. A good woman in a good country, one might say. She loved her country, Botswana, which is a place of peace, and she loved Africa, for all its trials. I am not ashamed to be called an African patriot, said Mma Ramotswe. I love all the people whom God made, but I especially know how to love the people who live in this place. They are my people, my brothers and sisters. It is my duty to help them to solve the mysteries in their lives."

But it's this very same Botswana, Africa that Mma Ramotswe acknowledges as birthing superstitions such as the magical healing properties of the bones and flesh of slain children. It's Botswana where she meets Note who beats, impregnates and leaves her following the death of their 5-day old child. It's this same Botswana that includes the sounds, terrain, endless sky, smells, and familial relationships that she adores. Mma Ramotswe's relationship with her home is complicated, to say the least.

Relationships trump law at Mma Ramotswe's detective agency. Instead of following the book of proper detection, she risks following people too closely, uses her own feminine charms in proving that a husband is prone to cheating on his wife, and deceives when the situation warrants. Her personal philosophy reveals why "law" and "right" are not black and white concepts for her: "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." Law doesn't bind, friendship does. Mma Ramotswe lives out this truth in every aspect of her life.

And why wouldn't a complex woman like Mma Ramotswe love her complex home, warts and all? She's Matekoni's "everything", "mother", "Africa", "wisdom", and "understanding" included. In many ways, Mma Ramotswe is Mother Africa, a woman and land rife with tragedy and contradictions, but beautiful and lovable all the same. Loving Africa is the ultimate act of self-love for her, an act easier said than done for someone afraid she's let down her father and, by her choice in husband, been responsible for the death of her infant. Precious Ramotswe is extremely lovable, as is her father Obed, Matekoni, and the many other imperfect people that populate Alexander McCall Smith's Botswana.

I loved this book from beginning to end. And really, could the closing paragraph be any sweeter? This collection of seemingly disconnected memories, stories, and cases come together to make a memorable, well-written whole. I can't wait to follow Mma Ramotswe throughout this series as she solves the mysteries of herself/Africa. In the end, it's near impossible to distinguish between the two.
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Reading Progress

05/06/2012 page 94
40.0% "Beautifully written story! I'm really enjoying the gradual development of Precious' character. Wisdom earned through hardship."
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