Sunday, September 5, 2010

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency: Solving African mysteries, great and small

Botswana is suddenly on my Bucket List, and it’s all because of Precious Ramotswe.

I had already put Alexander McCall Smith’s The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency on my reading list for the R.I.P. V Challenge when Karen over at How Mysterious gave a great review to the second audio book in that series. With a trip to New Jersey looming, and a 1-book credit on burning a hole in my digital pocket, I decided to download the audio book.

Another great call, Karen.

Precious Ramotswe is a gatherer – a gatherer of people, a gatherer of skills and a gatherer of information. A non-traditional woman in a traditional but changing society, Mma Ramotswe takes her inheritance and puts her considerable deductive powers to work by opening Botswana’s first female owned and operated detective agency. As a new business owner, she takes almost any case that comes her way, from tracking down pampered pooches to exposing insurance cheats. She constructs each case as a puzzle, and she uses her knowledge of Botswana –culture, flora, fauna, history – to make the pieces of the puzzle fit.

I especially loved the idea of having Precious solve lots of different mysteries, rather than have the book dominated by one case: you got to know her and the supporting cast of characters better as you encounter both her successes and failures during her first months on the job. And there’s a good deal of humor to go along with the sleuthing, because Precious can both laugh at herself and laugh at the world.

This is a particularly engaging audio book. With Lisette Lecat’s African-accented narration, the story truly springs to life. I loved Lecat’s graceful pronunciation of the Setswanan names, and the changes in her voice that signaled different characters were consistent, clear and never cutesy. The only thing I might have wished for was some of the sounds of Botswana – fires crackling at a cattle station, traditional music drifting from a neighbor’s turntable, birds calling from the thorn bushes.

It’s been a long time since a book prompted me to think about traveling to some way-out destination, but I found myself trolling the Internet for photo safaris in Botswana when I got home from New Jersey today. That’s the transportational power of a good read in action.


  1. For some reason I cannot get into this series... I have tried a couple times and it just doesn't work for me. Maybe I should try an audio...

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Kailana. I think the audio book was fantastic -- all those (for me) difficult names sounded so beautiful with Lecat reading them. I think you might really enjoy it.

  3. I'm so glad you liked it, Colleen! But I just found out that not all the audiobooks are narrated by Lecat. :( I think I'll read the others in the print version.

  4. I had the same reaction when I first started reading this series of books: Take me to Botswana!

  5. I think it may be time for me to finally pick this one up.

  6. I really liked this one but still haven't read any of the others. I need to look into audio.

  7. My book group read this some time back and really enjoyed it. I haven't read any of the sequels yet (and truthfully, probably won't) but this one was really good. Thanks for your post!


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