Meet Ma Precious Ramotswe: A review of The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is the first in a series of books of the same name. It was first published in 1998 to huge acclaim and is followed by a total of nineteen books to date. They feature Mma Precious Ramotswe, the 30-something proprietor of Botswana’s only woman led private detective agency. The series begins with Mma Ramotswe finding her feet as a sleuth. She sets up the business with money her shrewd and devoted father left her on his death. She takes inspiration from the great Agatha Christie, and, even though doubts about her choice of profession creep in now and again, she finds the work thrilling and suited to her abilities. 

The protagonist is lovingly created and crafted by Alexander McCall Smith, an African born British academic and author, now residing in Scotland. His picture of Mma Ramotswe is so vivid that one could question how he – a middle aged white man – could write a young African woman so well. It is very clear that he is an astonishingly talented writer and storyteller. It is such a beautifully written book, perfectly executed, and with humour abounds. The humour within these pages is magnificent, usually centering around the character of men and how useless they are to women. Damaging, in fact. Indeed, parts of the book touch on very sinister subjects, none more so than towards the end of the story. I was not expecting this, as, by all accounts, it is a cheerful read, but McCall Smith continues the story in his wonderfully loose, gentle, and optimistic style, rendering it fitting that these subjects should indeed be covered in this African narrative.

I am very excited to continue on Mma Ramotswe’s journey with her. It is such a lovely, engrossing and evocative series. Highly recommended to those that wish to be transported to the heat and happy heart of Africa, and uplifted by McCall Smith’s wonderful and mischievous prose.

A beautiful, heart warming read