Saturday, October 6, 2007

Alexander McCall Smith/ THE NO.1 LADIES' DETECTIVE AGENCY


This is the first of McCall Smith's charming series of stories set in Botswana. Mma Ramotswe uses the money from the sale of her father's cattle, her inheritance, to set herself up as a private detective. She relies on observation and her knowledge of human nature to solve what cases come her way.

This appears to be a rather naïve and anachronistic portrait of Botswana recounted through the rose-coloured spectacles of fond nostalgia, bearing as much resemblance to today's Botswana, as the image of tea in bone china and cucumber sandwiches does to England today.

Nevertheless the observations of human nature, the fine delineation of the Botswana of twenty years ago, the shrewdly drawn characters and the dry humour make this a great escapist read, when you want to lose yourself in a simpler, though by no means perfect, world.

6 comments:

moonrat said...

how conventional a mystery is it? i've found that i can't get into most mysteries at all, since they tend to be almost entirely plot. there are some genre writers who are exceptions, of course... but i'm curious about these, because the readership seems to transcend traditional genre boundaries...

Froog said...

That's curious - I happen to be reading a McCall Smith at the moment as well. Not the same book, at least.

I know he's a popular and prolific author. And we do have quite a few contributors here on BookBook now. Even so, it seems rather an odd coincidence to me - particularly since I'm only reading mine because I just remembered a friend lent it to me nearly a year ago and I felt that it was really about time I gave it back.

In fact, I very nearly cast this book (my one, that is - 44 Scotland Street) aside after starting it. There's something ploddingly workmanlike about his writing; it just doesn't inspire me. However, I find I am two-thirds of the way through it, and it's an easy read. I can polish it off in another hour or two - and I suppose our BookBook readers deserve a full review!

moonrat said...

yes we do!

Kit said...

This one isn't a conventional mystery and is fairly low on plot - more about atmosphere. The mysteries she has to solve are usually minor and solved more coincidentally than any great analysing of clues.

The books are more about evoking a way of life and a people that have all but disappeared.

Lisa said...

Kit's right on. The No. 1 Ladies Detective series is my guilty pleasure. I haven't managed to get to it yet, but I've got the seventh book in the series here, untouched. There is something about the simplicity, the simple cadence of the dialogue, the descriptions of Botswana and the old fashioned, common sense morality that is appealing. I love this series when I'm traveling or otherwise in a place where I can't focus on something dense. I've tried another of McCall's series and wasn't as drawn into it, but I do love these characters.

Leigh Russell said...

I enjoyed this series. I found the simplicity was almost a bit of a turn off to begin with, but I agree with Lisa that there's something reassuring about the simplicity of the values and the way of life described.