‘No 1 Ladies Detective Agency’ – Satisfaction guaranteed

Like they say, books written by Alexander McCall Smith are for some, not all readers. If you like laid back writing about a sleepy town in Botswana, about simple people and their simple lives, about human behavior and simple joys, read Smith. If you want thrills, read James Patterson. If you want to undergo mental calisthenics, read the late Robert Ludlum. Thus start my recommendations, but let us get to Smith.

Smith became famous with his first book of the detective series, one that I read second, called ‘No 1 ladies detective agency’. What a master stroke, the name of that book. It makes you curious and when my cousin recommended the series to me, I was intrigued. I am through reading two of them, the first and the fourth with an equally strange title – ‘The Kalahari typing school for men’. In a way it was good to read the 4th first, as it sets the pace and mood, also describes the settings without much of a plot. It whets your appetite for the others which are supposedly better. Now I am reading ‘In the company of cheerful ladies’.

The detective is a homely plump woman called Precious Ramotswe who runs the agency with much success. And she goes about tracking errant husbands, missing children or all kinds of offbeat cases in her daily life. She has to deal with her new life partners JLB Matekoni’s and help out at his car repair shop and she has an able secretary, assistant detective and assistant manager Mma Makutsi. So in the 4th book, while Ramottswe is trundling about Botswana in her white van, looking for two people a client Moleflo had asked her to locate, in an act of penance, Makutsi has a brainwave in creating a typing school for men. Matekoni on the other hand is working with his two apprentices, trying to hone their auto repair skills, but then boys are boys, one of the two seems to have moved from girls to god while the other is trying to find even more girls to chase.. And Makutsi, eventually finds romance at the typing school and is close to finding her life partner…

This is a fascinating book that showcases the basics of human nature and how people can be happy with small things. It will help take you back to those days of common sense, manners, sentiments and simple wry wit & humor.

Listen to this comment in the 4th book - Mma Ramotswe observes, "The trouble with men, of course, was that they went about with their eyes half closed for much of the time. Sometimes Mma Ramotswe wondered whether men actually wanted to see anything, or whether they decided that they would notice only the things that interested them"

And this- Mma Ramotswe suggests that people are now "far too ready to abandon their husbands and wives because they had tired of them. . . . And friends, too. They could become very demanding, but all you had to do was to walk out. Where had all this come from, she wondered? It was not African, she thought, and it certainly had nothing to do with the old Botswana morality. So it must have come from somewhere else"

I am now itching to get to the other books – and hopefully move on to the three other series that Smith writes about.

This is how the detective agency is advertised

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency -For All Confidential Matters and Inquiries -Satisfaction Guaranteed for all Parties - Under Personal Management

McCall Smith has written over 50 books – Here is what he has to say about his central character - There is no particular person upon whom Precious Ramotswe is based, but there is an incident. Years ago I was in Botswana, staying with friends in a small town called Mochudi. A woman in the town wished to give my friends a chicken to celebrate Botswana National Day. I watched as this woman -- traditionally built, like Mma Ramotswe -- chased the chicken round the yard and eventually caught it. She made a clucking noise as she ran. The chicken looked miserable. She looked very cheerful. At that moment I thought that I might write a book about a cheerful woman of traditional build. Mma Ramotswe sets up her agency without any relevant experience. However, she does have intuition -- in abundance -- and that is very much more important than anything she could learn from a book. In fact, the passages she cites from The Principles of Private Detection are ultimately not particularly helpful to her, the point being that a person without any training can achieve great things if he or she has natural intelligence and ability. In many African countries, including Botswana, people have great respect for books and for the learning they contain. I would hope to point out that this should not obscure the importance of real, practical wisdom.
Alexander McCall Smith was born in Zimbabwe and was educated there and in Scotland. He became a law professor in Scotland, and it was in this role that he first returned to Africa to work in Botswana, where he helped to set up a new law school at the University of Botswana. He is currently Professor of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh, but has been a visiting professor at a number of other universities elsewhere, including ones in Italy and the United States (where he has twice been visiting professor at SMU Law School in Dallas, Texas).
The picture ofthe 'Kalahari' presents a poignanat backdrop....
Pics - courtesy various sites, acknowledged with thanks


Narendra shenoy said...

That was a wonderful review. I'm going to read that book right away. Thanks.

Nanditha Prabhu said...

I have read the whole series and fell in love with it!I have the whole collection with me ."sunday philosophy club" is yet another series which is great to read.he has a simple and clear style which is captivating!

Lakshmi Bharadwaj said...

I liked the review. Let me see if I can get my hands on the book.

Maddy said...

Narendra, nanditha, Lakshmi - thanks a lot. nanditha - I have still a few in the detetctive series, then I will try sunday....