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The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (Movie Tie-in Edition) (Random House Movie Tie-In Books)
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Product Description

Meet Mma Ramotswe, the endearing, engaging, simply irresistible proprietress of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, the first and only detective agency in Botswana. With persistent observation, gentle intuition, and a keen desire to help people with the problems of their lives, she solves mysteries great and small for friends and strangers alike.

Customer Reviews:

  • Not your traditional mystery
    This book is not a typical "who murdered him/her" mystery. The first few chapters focus mainly on the heroine, how her agency got set up, and a bit about her country. The book then focuses on the local-flavor of crimes she solves by mainly using her wits. If you're a person who likes to learn about different cultures, then this is an entertaining way to do so. If you like straight who-do-its, then this book (or, at least, the first few chapters of the book) may have less appeal for you.

    Genre Reviews info
  • Blah
    The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency is the first story in a series of mystery novels about Mme. Ramotswe and the detective agency that she opens with the money left to her by her dying father. The catch here, if you hadn't noticed from the title, is that she is a woman, and not only that, the first woman detective in all of Botswana. If you missed that intricate plot detail, never fear, the main character will remind you of it during the course of the story. Again, and again, and again....

    I debated between one and two stars for this one. It wasn't a total waste. It had some charm to it... some. In the end I give it one star simply because I had much higher expectations for it, and it was a let down. Wow, and what a let down it was! I honestly really thought I would enjoy it. I was interested in the mystery aspect of it. I like a good mystery novel. I have a fascination with Africa, and being set in Africa, I was thinking "this looks like a winner."

    One of the main problems I had with is was the way in which the dialog of the characters was written. Another reviewer described it as "baby talk", and really, I can't think of any better way to describe it. I keep trying to come up with reasons for why it was written in this manner, but none of them make any sense to me. It just makes the characters come across as stupid, as though African people are incapable of using any words longer than five letters long or expressing themselves with any sort of eloquence what-so-ever.

    There's also the plot. Mme. Ramotswe solves several cases throughout the story with a certain finesse of Inspector Gadget. SPOILER ALERT! There is the case of the missing Christian husband, who Ramotswe is convinced has run away with another woman ("Men are stupid, LOLZ!!!1" is a major theme of the book). Turns out he was swallowed whole by a crocodile. Of course! There's the case of the 16 year old girl, who actually outsmarts Ramotswe. The girl is actually the only character in this book that I liked. There's the doctor with seemingly inconsistent talent. Like a plot twist straight out of a daytime soap opera, it turns out he has an identical twin brother who is getting to substitute for him in hospitals so he can hold down two jobs and earn twice the money. Wow! That makes so much sense... wouldn't he spend twice as much since he has to have two places to live? Other than that, I'm sure this is totally probable. And then there is the heart breaking case of a missing boy which challenges Ramotswe the most, and puts her in the most danger... or so says the back cover of the book. Allow me to paraphrase this climax of the book for you:

    Ramotswe: Your husband murdered a boy for Muti!
    Witchdoctor's Wife: Not he didn't. The boy is living on a cattle ranch.
    Ramotswe: Show me.
    Wife: Okay
    (drives to ranch)
    Ramotswe: Are you the boy who was kidnapped from the school teacher.
    Boy: Yes
    Ramotswe: Okay, I'm taking you home now.
    (drives to the boys house and drops him off)

    Seriously, if you blink, you might miss this climatic ending. I have watched episodes of Scooby Doo with more drama and suspense.

    In conclusion. Don't read it. Really, just don't waste your time. The No. 1 Detective Agency furthers my belief that it is now possible for anyone to get a book published.

    The End....more info
  • Utterly Charming
    These books are not serious fiction, finely constructed mysteries or the greatest books ever written on Africa. Instead, they are a quiet, gentle and heartwarming series of vignettes that provide insight into the human condition and a peak at the Africa of Botswana. Further, they are not entirely saccharine either as they touch on issues such as domestic violence and the trials and tribulations of serious poverty. Yet at the end of each of these books, I always feel better. This is a rare combination indeed.

    I tend to read what most people would consider "serious" fiction and nonfiction. You will more often than not find me curled up with something by Camus, Nietzsche or Borges. Rose-colored glasses are not my style and it took an insistent friend to get me to read this first volume. I now gladly admit to being seduced by Smith's deceptively simple prose and characters.

    These books are meant to be read at the beach or bedtime and later passed on to friends. Gentle wisdom is best undertaken gently. If you can approach these books in the spirit I believe Smith intended, then you might be find in them something sorely missing in this world of ours.

    ...more info
  • A wonderful series - but start in the middle
    I've enjoyed every book in this series set in Botswana - but I must say that this book, the first, is not the strongest or in my opinon the best place to start. I would instead recommend "Morality for Beautiful Girls", number 3 in the series, or "The Kalahari Typing School for Men," number 4. But wherever you start, it's hard not to like these wonderful books....more info
  • Warm, witty, and wise
    First book in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series.

    Precious Ramotswe, in the face of many doubts, starts a detective agency after the death of her father. Her response to these skeptics is, "Haven't you ever heard of Agatha Christie?"

    However, the true beauty of this book is not the mystery (though her cases are solved in satisfying ways). What I found most engaging is the glimpse into the culture of Botswana. Precious is a delightful character whose wisdom and humor will keep readers entranced throughout this quiet little book....more info
  • Gentle story told with love
    Precious Ramotswe is a 30ish year old single woman who inherits a sum of money after her father's death. Since she has suffered through a terrible marriage, and is actually quite intelligent, she decides that rather than continue to grow cattle, she will open up the first ever detective agency run by women in Botswana. So, she buys a home, an office, office furniture, a sign, hires a secretary, and waits for clients to arrive.

    The book tells the stories of her earliest cases. The very first one involves solving the mystery of a christian convert who seems to have run away from his wife. Another mystery involvest the disappearance of an eleven year old boy; then there is the matter of the doctor who appears to be on drugs or schizophrenic; and on and on. Interleaved amongst all the mysteries, are chapters that describe Precious's life and her troubled marriage.

    The focus here is not on the mysteries. They are not the point. The point and the focus is on how this woman makes her way amongst her people in Botswana. It is about how she manuevers within her culture and how she applies her people-sense or people-wisdom towards solving thevarious problems. Of course, this sometimes is not enough and you wonder if she was not played the patsy in the story of "Jack" and another missing husband case.

    Each story is told with gentle humor and involves no violence. Oh, there are people and animals who are killed, but we only find out about them later, for the most part. This is not a hard core mystery, it is more a celebration of the life of this remarkable woman.

    Her life evolves too. As we hear the stories of the mysteries she solves, we also become aware of her immediate friends and community. It is not a static community. Although Precious vows to remain a single woman, she ends up agreeing to marry one of the characters who appears in the book. One of the final stories told is about how they choose which house to live in and how Previous handles the groom's housekeeper - in a way, by the way, which is different than anything she had done before.

    This is the first book in a series that tells of Precious's life. While there is nothing particularly wrong with the book, it is simply not my style, so I will probably not read any more of them.
    ...more info
  • A Quick, Pleasant Read
    Again, this book was chosen for one of my bookclubs and this one is ok. It's not the world's greatest nor a thought-provoking read. This book fits the bill of snuggling under the blanket on a cold autumn day and read of the hot desert air in Africa. This is not a typical mystery either. It is a pleasant rambling of life in Africa. It is also a very predictable mystery book (I wouldn't even call it a mystery novel).

    This book is the first in the series (which I probably won't read the rest) and it is about a woman named Precious who opened up a business and she is a detective. She looks for straying husbands, lost kids, and other cases. This book is a jumble of several cases where she finds the answer very easily. It is a cute book but again, very predictable.

    This is perfect for those cold days when you have time to read a book in its entirety. If you like Agatha Christie novels, you will like this one.

    10/22/08...more info
  • Mysteries!... and bush tea?
    Well... this book had a good overall story line, but it really wasn't for me. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency is about a fat African woman named Mma Ramotswe. She is a very sly lady, considering the fact that she manages to follow her victims around unknowingly in her tiny white van. Throughout the story, she solves many people's mysteries with her logic. In the first half of the book, each chapter has its own uniqueness. It's almost like a bunch of short stories put together. One chapter she's solving one person's problem, and another chapter someone else's problem. As the book progresses, the chapters start to morph together and it actually becomes a fluid story. Because this book is set in Africa, it also has its own writing style. I think it's written in a type of British-English because they spell color with a u (colour) and other words with odd lettering. There's one thing that sticks out a lot in the book as you're reading through the chapters: bush tea! What is with all the bush tea? Every other chapter it seems that either Mma Ramotswe and/or another character is drinking it. One of the reasons that I didn't intensely enjoy this book like other people have is because of the perspective from which it was written. I really didn't get into it! The first chapter was so silly, too. Some lady named Happy needed to find out if the man living with her was really her daddy. Mma Ramotswe did her magic, and the happy returned to Happy. As for my recommendation, I'd say don't read it if you don't like mystery books written from a woman's perspective. This would be a good read for someone that likes odd mystery books, though....more info
    Hysterical, heartwarming book. It made me feel good when I was sick. Get it now! Book in excellent condition....more info
  • Top Notch
    Deep within Africa, the traditional figure of a proud Botswanan can be found, sitting behind her typewriter, sipping bush tea. Need a detective? She's the one you want. The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith is the story of Precious Ramotswe, the daughter of Obed Ramotswe. Although he died when she was still quite young, he left her a fair amount of money in order to start a business. A business of her choice. Without thought, Mma. Ramotswe quickly and successfully opened a detective agency. Despite the criticism she received about her gender, her firm rapidly became No.1.
    Precious Ramotswe, born and raised in Botswana, was supported by her father's cousin for the first eight years of her life. Being a loving guardian, the cousin brought up Precious as if she was her own, and she turned out to be an honest, intelligent, somewhat perfect young girl. These traits stuck with Mma. Ramotswe and it appeared impossible for her to make a mistake. Solving all of the cases brought to her with ease, she brings criminals to justice and gains the respect of many in the process.
    This novel had many strong components. One factor that stood out would definitely be characterization. Through out The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, many characters are introduced and become an important part of the story. Instead of throwing them out in the open, Alexander McCall Smith does a fantastic job of developing them over time, in a way the reader can follow and understand them. Their feelings are foreshadowed then unfolded and their traits are beautifully described, until the reader feels as if they know them. By the end of the story, it is impossible to dislike the thoughtful Mma. Ramotswe or loving Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni. Another strength found throughout the pages of this book would be imagery. All and everything is explained with great detail. This makes the novel even more enjoyable to read because the sentences flow beautifully together, putting vivid pictures in the mind. The following sentence is an example of how the author goes about this. "Then there were the purple bougainvilleas which had been enthusiastically planted by the previous owners, and which had almost taken over by the time Mma Ramotswe had came" (McCall Smith 133). The only weakness that was visible to me would be the beginning of the book. It starts of with a series of flashbacks which were hard to follow and were a little slow to read. Also, the arrangement of the first few chapters was confusing because they were not in a chronological order.
    The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency would most likely be a book that would appeal more to females. However, it was definitely appropriate for any age above ten. Anyone below that age would probably have a hard time grasping the words and find it hard to stick with. Overall, this novel makes a good read and is definitely worth the time.
    ...more info
  • Disappointing, a bit condescending
    I'm not sure why this book got such raving reviews, I certainly don't need to go on and read book 2 in the series. Perhaps it is because I listened to the audio version, but I found the tone of the writing condescending toward the culture the author is supposed to represent. Moreover, the main character is hardly compelling, and the unfolding events during the story perilously close to being simply boring....more info
  • start here
    this is a wonderful series! hear this one first -- the voice actor is mezmerizing!...more info
  • African Wisdom
    Written by a man, The No1 Ladies' Detective Agency has enough of a feminist persepctive for me to feel I was reading something actually written for me, rather than feeling as I usually do when reading, that I am trying to take pleasure in literature created for an audience of which I am not a part. McCall Smith' s feminism is simple but fundamental : men should not beat their wives, the better fathers are those who encourage their daughters to be independent and realise their dreams, women have a right to happiness.

    These beliefs are just part of the basic philosophy of the central character, Mma Precious Ramotswe, the first lady detective in Botswana, who imparts her basic moral philosophy at the same time - murder is worse than lying, relationships are more important than money, intuition is a kind of knowledge. While all of this philosophy may seem clich¨¦d, as perhaps it is, it appears naturally in the book as part of the character and helps us to understand her approach to solving the cases brought to her.

    Woven throughout all of this is a picture of Botswana, considered by Ramotswe, and presumably McCall Smith, as the best and most successful country in Africa. Independent from the British since 1966, there is enormous pride in her accomplishments, and only the ongoinging black magic practices of some of the country's witchdoctors cast a shadow on the shining accomplishments of Botswana's diamond-fueled progress.

    Most powerfully of all, it is the love of the land that sings throughout the book. Botswana - stretching from the Kalahari desert to the Limpopo river, a country where ? there is a place for me, and for everybody, to sit down on this earth and touch it and call it their own ?. A country with its distinct riches - ? that was what her country was so rich in - emptiness...those empty spaces, those wide grasslands that broke and broke the heart ?. With its thorn trees that know how to survive in the searing heat and the birds and snakes of Mother Africa. Where nature is a family member and where the rising of the sun and its setting at the end of day are events to be savoured in the daily rhythm of life.

    I read this book in a relaxed afternoon, and felt I had passed my time with a pleasant companion, who had painted pictures for me of a place I might otherwise never visit.

    ...more info
  • can it be called an African cozy?
    I'm not entirely sure what genre "The #1 Ladies' Detective Agency" fits into, and that may be why I resisted reading it for a long time. I avoid books that get a lot of press by mainstream media (like the Today Show, Oprah, Regis, etc.), figuring it is just a sellout and not real praise. However, this book has real charm and a sweetness about it. No twisty Agatha Christie style plot, just a compassionate lady using her brain, intuition and common sense. The author communicates atmosphere beautifully and paints the culture and landscape of Botswana with a loving brush. ...more info
  • Took me a while but.....
    To be honest, I started this book about 3 times and then put it down, until I read the reviews here on Amazon. It was recommended to me by a friend who said I would love it, but I did not know what the heck it was about at first. Then I read the reviews and started it again and I love it. I am about halfway through, and really enjoy "Precious" s character and her honest take on life. It is a lovely, honest book about life in Africa and the detective agency Precious creates. I will defintiely check out the next books in the series!...more info
  • Great psychology
    I've read almost all the books in this series, and they are all wonderful examples of great, funny, compelling writing. His psychology is obviously of a professional level, and I think it is possible to learn something from it. I can't wait to read the last 2 books that are out....more info
  • Tea and Mystery.....well, sort of
    When you've just waded through a gigantic work of serious history, laden with so many facts that it's a kind of literary Death by Chocolate, you need a change. I thought I'd find it with this tale of a Botswana lady detective and I wasn't mistaken. THE No1 LADIES' DETECTIVE AGENCY is as light as a milkweed seed wafting its way across a fall meadow. You couldn't ask for anything less taxing. Though ostensibly it is a detective novel, following any sort of plot is not too tough to say the least ! It is more a slice of life in the quiet, mildly-prosperous country of Botswana in southern Africa, seldom seen in the headlines because it has avoided murderous dictators, wars, and massacres, not to mention starvation and dire poverty. Mma Ramotswe sets herself up as a private detective. We meet her friends and acquaintances, see inside her house, learn the condition of her little white van, and follow her on her daily rounds as she discovers cheating husbands, embezzling employees, teenage romancers, fake doctors, and missing people. She drinks innumerable mugs of bush tea, politely deflects would-be husbands, and reflects on her own unfortunate marital history. Mma Ramotswe is a nice character, and she eventually solves---without the slightest twist or turn, no guns, no car chases---the only serious crime in the book, a murder or kidnapping case. It is all very lightweight. If this is what you are looking for, you've certainly come to the right place. Your brain will not get out of first gear, but you'll experience some mild enjoyment and be introduced to a society which might be a little too sane to be true. Mr. Smith, the author, should have done a bit more research on Indian names and somebody in the whole editorial process might have noticed that "Gandhi" does not have an `h' after the `G'. Whether or not a white man can assume successfully the character of a black African woman can be left to others to ponder. It's not usually a good idea. But the book definitely pleases if you don't get into "hegemonic discourse" and the like. Just like bush tea, it will settle you right down.
    ...more info
  • Thoroughly enjoyable (a review of the audiobook)
    The audiobook started out pretty slowly and I nearly stopped listening about 45 minutes into it. Suddenly, the story "clicked" for me and I gladly listened to the whole 8 hours and 15 minutes.

    Narrated wonderfully by Lisette Lecat, a native South African who injects a touch of authenticity with her lovely accent and voice rhythms, this book is much more than a series of detective stories. It is also the story of Botswana and its culture and the complex interactions between traditional and modern, male and female, rich and poor, and white, black and Indian.

    A lovely book and a real joy to listen to. Sometimes laugh out loud funny, sometimes deeply moving.

    Well done....more info
  • life-affirming book with the unforgettable main character
    When Precious Ramotswe's father, Obed, dies and leaves her all the cattle with the advice to sell it and buy herself a good business, she decides to become a private detective, the first lady detective in Botswana, and perhaps in the whole of Africa.

    Mma Ramotswe, smart, fat and good-natured, equipped with a detective handbook, great memory, and unfailing sense of right and wrong, sets out to help her neighbors and solve the crimes and mysteries happening around. These are not very serious crimes - an impostor, a naughty daughter, a cheating husband, a dishonest employee - but Mma Ramotswe takes her clients seriously, like her role model, Agatha Christie's Miss Marple, and solves the problems using all her abilities, her wisdom, intuition, cleverness, wit and tact.

    Mma Ramotswe enjoys her freedom, her house in Zebra Drive in Gaborone and her detective agency in her native country she loves. She is, by all standards, a successful, happy woman. Thanks to his father's cattle she can live in a town, do whatever she wants, drink her favorite redbush tea and have no problems, but she is compassionate and friendly, and really cares for other people. Her detective agency functions also as a psychoanalytical service, although her clients are grossly unaware of this fact. She also loves her country, Botswana, where Kalahari desert dictates the conditions of life, where people live simply, in harmony with nature, believing in the strength of their society and their banks full of diamonds, and wish only to be left in peace. Only her memories, intertwining with the stories of solved crimes, show the dark side of her and her father's life in Botswana, hard work in the mines, dishonest, hurtful people and misery, which she narrowly escaped and which is the fate of many other ordinary people in her country.

    Alexander McCall , who lived in Africa for a long time, has managed to pour his love for this sun- dried, rough continent into the pages of his novel, creating one of the most life-affirming and optimistic books I have recently read. "Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency" is written with a lot of humor and easy to read. It is also warm and cheerful, like its main protagonist, the charming Mma Ramotswe. It is a simple book, not aspiring to formal sophistry, but it is good because of the feelings it evokes in the reader - it is not cerebral, but heartfelt. I am very happy this unusual detective story is the first of a long series, because it is a promise of many delights to come....more info
  • BOR-ing
    If you like strictly episodic books with no character development, no dramatic arc, and occasionally trite prose, this is the book for you. What's more, the solution to each of the little "mysteries" (and I use the term loosely) was, by and large, predictable, including the sappy ending. I don't generally read mystery books, and maybe that's the problem -- but so many people recommended this thing that I tried to ignore the hype and dove in. What a waste of time when there are so many really good books out there to read......more info
  • Not So Number One
    Overall the book was a pretty good detective story and I really enjoyed all the many obstacles Mma. Ramotswe had encountered. The main weakness and the one reason why I gave this book only three stars is that there wasn't really a main point to the whole thing. Normally there is always a purpose the author tries to accomplish in the book, but there wasn't. As the book went along, the main charater had been hired for several different jobs, but the book didn't focus on a specific one. There was a couple of times when I thought that one might be important throughout the book, but ended up not being anything. If the author would've made a specific case end up being a huge part of the book, then I thought that the book would be a five star. Overall, I enjoyed it and it was a easy read if looking for something not so complicated....more info
  • Read knowing all the rest of the books in this series are FABULOUS, even though this first in the series is a bit weak
    The rest of this series is WONDERFUL. This first volume falters a bit, but it is best to start with it. Don't give up, head to the next book and devour the rest of the series. When you re-read the series over the years, as you surely will, you will probably skip this first book.

    I absolutely love this series and hope the first book doesn't deter people from falling in love with the rest of the series and these wonderful, wonderful characters....more info
  • This book is a gem!
    What a great book. It was fun to read, adorable, serious, cultural, yummy. All the things I like to have when I just want to cozy up to a good book. I am anxious to read the other books in the series. I have been recommending it to all my friends. I know it has been out for a while, but I guess better late than never....more info
  • simple, fresh and enjoyable..
    Hats off to the author for attempting to deviate from the mainline sleuth stories (with protagonist being a gent that is tech savy or a martial art/sharp shooting expert chasing around in expensive cars in a story where atleast a dozen people end up dying).

    This is quite very different, with a not so attractive single woman running a detective agency solving cases that are simple and almost realistic. The African setting without any of the typical 'gods have left Africa' theme makes it even more interesting. I will definitely be reading few more books in this series.

    -Santhosh....more info
  • The no 1 Ladies Detective agency
    Not a typical mystery but a delightful tale set in Botswana. McCall Smith's writing brings Precious Ramotswe, the head of the detective agency, to life on each page. The supporting characters are also well developed and believable. It is a thoroughly enjoyable book....more info
  • A Glimpse of Southern Africa from an Author Who Knows
    This gently humorous book and its five similarly funny companions offer more than an engaging story line. You learn that Botswana is a true success story, one of the few in post-colonial sub-Saharan Africa. You can also learn something about the culture, social behavior, languages, and personal values of the people. Of course you need only go to Wikipedia or to Google "Botswana" to gain access to a wealth of facts, if facts will suffice. But, if you wish to be touched by the fabric of Botswana life the six books of the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series, will let it happen and provide much to ponder....more info
  • A Classic
    What a superb book and series! To categorize this book as a mystery or a detective novel is a misguided attempt at characterizing this novel far too narrowly. Sure, there are little stories within the book which are "mysteries" but these are merely the background, along with Botswana, on which the larger story is told. Indeed, those readers who read The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series seeking a detective story may be disappointed, but they will at least have had the literary content of their typical reading raised.
    This book also isn't "simple" as some have suggested either. The subleties of human strength and human frailty , honesty and duplicity, love and selfishness, generosity and greed are worked out in the lives Mma Ramotswe and Mr. J L B Matekoni and their clients and friends and offer a far more profoundly insightful glimpse of human relationships than any complex plot twisting thriller. The characters are beautifully drawn, warts and all, and they draw the reader into their world and make the reader feel that they too are there with Mma Ramotswe, drinking red bush tea, and remembering to treat each other and everyone they meet with respect, kindness, grace, tact and dignity.
    ...more info