The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

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?



Filed under Reading Ramana

12 responses to “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

  1. Oh, Priya! I am a bit disappointed that you were a bit disappointed. I love this series of books, as well as the movies. They are so charming to me. 🙂

    • priyaiyer


      I am so sorry. 😦 I didn’t enjoy the book as much. 😦
      Will give his Sunday Philosophy Club series a shot, though. 🙂
      Yet to see the movies based on these books..

  2. Oh! A detective series in which everything works out so easily does not interest me too! But the part about her country etc.. makes me want to read it. May be I will pick it up if I find it some library sometime 😉

    • priyaiyer


      Yeah. That’s what disappointed me. 😦
      Do let me know how you liked it, if you get around to reading this book..

  3. Love this series, and the Sunday Philosophy Club and Scotland Street ones too. It’s not about the mystery per se, you know…expect mystery and thrill and you’ll be disappointed. Rather, it’s about people, what we’re like, how we behave, how we change…gently poking fun at our ways sometimes. Of course, if you didn’t like this, don’t read the others, you’ll probably not like them either 🙂

    • priyaiyer

      @Chindi Chitranna

      Hey! Look who’s here! 🙂
      I went into this book looking for a small-town woman who is smart, but learns how to stand her own ground – and who has a unique way of solving mysteries. What I found was far from that. 😦
      Want to try out the Sunday Philosophy Club series, though. Have a feeling I’d like that. 🙂

  4. This book was actually in my to read list and I was planning on getting it soon.
    Perhaps you had read really good reviews and so had pretty high expectations of the book?

    • priyaiyer


      Oh I see. Do let me know how you liked the book.
      Yes, I think I went into the book with pretty high expectations. 😦

  5. Ava

    I loved Sunday Philosophy Club. I liked No 1 Det Ag, but not as much as SPC. I tried reading some other books by him, though he is a wonderful writer, he is more of a ‘sketcher’, giving us delightful portraits of people.

  6. RustyN

    I read this book long long ago and yes, I was a bit surprised about how simplistic it was. And, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue with other books. But it is the description of the lives out there, that made it interesting. I happened to see the movie the other day and surprisingly, I enjoyed the movie.

    • priyaiyer


      Yeah. It’s very very simplistic, no?
      Yes, I have to agree that the descriptions are lovely. I would read his other series just for the descriptions, if not for anything else.

      I also plan to see the No. 1… movie. Let’s see how I fare with that. 🙂

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