I had been looking forward to reading Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency for a long, long time. I finally got around to doing so over the course of the last week. I went into this book with huge expectations and, sadly, they crashed. 😦
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is the story of Precious Ramotswe, popularly known as Mma Ramotswe, who is a traditional African lady with high principles. She sets up the first ladies’ detective agency in Botswana, Africa, after her father’s death. She is not really a trained detective, but is a learning-as-I-go-along types. She has a passion for solving mysteries, and hopes to succeed with this establishment. Soon enough, Precious gets her first case, and solves it – successfully. This is followed by a number of small and big cases, which Precious goes on solving one after the other, with Precious becoming quite well known in the state.
My problem with the book was that it is way too simplistic. Precious seems to know everyone around, and everyone is always ready to help her out. Many times, she has no clue of how to go about solving the case at hand, and she always goes by her gut instincts. Sometimes, she has strokes of pure luck. However, amazingly, she always succeeds. For a learning detective, it is incredible that she gets into no scrapes – at least no major ones – and that everyone is overwhelmed with respect and admiration for her. The way Precious solved her cases – even seemingly tough ones – made me feel that anyone can be a detective, just about anyone – and I know that’s not true. The book left me feeling disappointed and unimpressed.
That said, I have to say that the author’s language is simple, yet charming. In spite of not being overly impressed by the way the storyline was building up, I was hooked on to the book till the end. The book flows very easily, making it a fast read, all thanks to the (almost) poetic and descriptive language. Precious’s ideas about her country, morality, marriage and all things small and big are typical of a traditional woman, and I quite liked her as a person.
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is the first book in a series by the same name. I’m not sure if I’ll be reading the rest of the books in the series, but I think I will give The Sunday Philosophy Club, another series by the same author, a shot. I’ve heard it’s a delightful and pleasant series.
Have you read The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency? Or The Sunday Philosophy Club? Or any books by Alexander McCall Smith? How did you find them?