Wayward daughters. Missing husbands. Philandering partners. Curious conmen. If you've got a problem, and no one else can help you, then pay a visit to Precious Ramotswe, Botswana's only - and finest - female private detective.
Her methods may not be conventional, and her manner not exactly Miss Marple, but she's got warmth, wit and canny intuition on her side, not to mention Mr JLB Maketoni, the charming proprietor of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors. And Precious is going to need them all as she sets out on the trail of a missing child, a case that tumbles our heroine into a hotbed of strange situations and more than a little danger . . .
Delightfully different, 'The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency' offers a captivating glimpse of an unusual world.
When Precious Ramotswe’s father died and left her with his cattle, the sale made her quite wealthy. Her decision to open the first Ladies Detective Agency in Botswana – in fact the only detective agency – was
an easy one. Mma Ramotswe was admired by many, but her intuition and stubborn desire to solve people’s problems saw her succeed in (most of) the cases she was asked to investigate. The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency was an absolutely delightful experience! I thoroughly enjoyed it and the intelligent humour fits Precious Ramotswe’s character perfectly! - Wade (QBD)
The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency grabbed my attention because I thought its setting in the African nation of Botswana would be refreshing compared with the common urban detective stories. The people and the hot, potentially deadly environment of the Kalahari Desert did put an interesting spin on the business of solving mysteries, but it wasn't enough to mask the fact that there is a lack of excitement or suspense in this book.
The plot follows Mma Ramotswe, the only female private detective in Botswana, as she goes about her business finding missing husbands, revealing unfaithful husbands, uncovering insurance fraud and identity fraud and learning what wayward teenage daughters are up to. All sounds very juicy, doesn't it? Unfortunately, it isn't. Each mystery plays out simple and straightforward and there is never any doubt that Mma Ramotswe will get to the truth. She triumphs easily, each case being wrapped up neatly and largely without confrontation and certainly with no hint of danger. Maybe this is a true reflection of the world of private investigations, but her mundane cases do not make for particularly exciting reading.
The main problem with this novel is the lack of a singular mystery to keep you gripped from start to finish. The blurb on the back of the book would have you believe that the main plot is the solving of the mystery of a missing child. However, the abduction of said child does not happen until halfway through the book and then seems to be promptly forgotten before coming back into the fold later in the story.
Another problem is that copious amounts of background information at the beginning of the book (such as the chapter devoted to her deceased father's life story) do little to get the story going. A lot of time is spent telling us about Mma Ramotswe's school days, her upbringing, her love for her country and her disastrous marriage before settling into the present world of the detective agency. While it is relevant contextual information, it proves a large hurdle to jump at the outset.
Ultimately, The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency is a series of rather dull adventures with a rather boring heroine. If you like your mysteries to keep you on the edge of your seat then this book will be a bit of a chore. However, if you're looking for a relaxing read not many highs and lows then it might have something to offer.