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The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

Hello, everyone, and happy summer!  Although I have ambitious reading plans now that school is out, the first thing I wanted to do was read some mysteries!  (Not very surprising, I know.)  I started with the first book in Alexander McCall Smith’s series, which I have been meaning to read for years.

No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series

No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Series

When Mma Ramotswe’s father, a successful cattle farmer, leaves her his cattle and suggests that she use her inheritance to start a business, she decides to open a detective agency.  She is the first woman in Botswana to become a private detective, so she names her business the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.  She initially encounters some skepticism from the men in her community, but she counters by referencing Agatha Christie to argue that women make good detectives because they are observant and have a good understanding of human nature.  (Not only did that endear her to this Christie fan, it was quite effective at convincing the characters in the story as well.)

Many of the mysteries I read are part of a series, and I’ve noticed that the first book is often quite different from those that follow.  The author has a lot of extra work to do, introducing the main characters who will recur throughout the series.  Perhaps because of this, the plot structure of this novel was a little different than most mysteries.  Mma Ramotswe opens her detective agency and solves several of her first cases over the course of the book.  I do not know if the rest of the books also contain several mysteries, or just focus on one, but I will be interested to find out.

I’ve heard it said that the best mysteries have a strong sense of place, and this series promises to be one of them.  Alexander McCall Smith’s descriptions of Botswana immediately captured my interest.  I was completely unfamiliar with Botswana before reading these books, but when I recently watched a tv special filmed there, I felt like I recognized the country instantly from his descriptions.

Acacia tree like Mma Ramotswe's

Acacia tree like Mma Ramotswe’s

The main character, Mma Ramotswe, is very likeable as well as being a talented detective.  She is strong, smart, and confident, which helps her to solve several cases despite having no experience in detective work.  She has a strong sense of right and wrong that makes her want to solve problems for her clients and neighbors.  She seems to have a pretty low opinion of men, which is not reciprocated-they seem to like her just fine.

I am giving this book four stars.  It was an enjoyable read, and I am definitely interested in continuing the series.  Give it a try if you’re looking for a nice summer mystery!  ★★★★

-Elizabeth

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleeker/218938868/”>Matt McGee</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/mere41782/6857627145/”>meredith_nutting</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

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