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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Audiobook Review: The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
Book 1 in The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series
Unabridged, 8 hr. 14 min.
Recorded Books
Lisette Lecat (Narrator)
April 7, 2003

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Genre: Mystery, Series, Audiobook

Source: Borrowed the Audiobook from Library
Working in a mystery tradition that will cause genre aficionados to think of such classic sleuths as Melville Davisson Post's Uncle Abner or Robert van Gulik's Judge Dee, Alexander McCall Smith creates an African detective, Precious Ramotswe, who's their full-fledged heir.

It's the detective as folk hero, solving crimes through an innate, self-possessed wisdom that, combined with an understanding of human nature, invariably penetrates into the heart of a puzzle. If Miss Marple were fat and jolly and lived in Botswana--and decided to go against any conventional notion of what an unmarried woman should do, spending the money she got from selling her late father's cattle to set up a Ladies' Detective Agency--then you have an idea of how Precious sets herself up as her country's first female detective.
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency is the first in a series of 10 books focusing on the life of Precious Ramotswe and her fledgling detective agency in Botswana, Africa. When Mma Ramotswe’s father passes away and leaves her with a large sum of money she decides that she will open the first detective agency run by a woman in Botswana. As her clients begin to trickle in, and she has success at solving their problems, more and more people come to her for help. As well as solving mysteries Mma Ramotswe also interacts with the people who are in her life and they help her to grow as a person and to solve her cases.

One of the most interesting things about this book is that you learn so much about African culture and the beauty of the nature. Africa doesn’t usually end up in best selling fiction very often. I found myself engrossed in learning about the country of Botswana (I can name three cities, the capital, the border countries, major industry, and some basic history of the country). I also think this book is very much about the empowerment of women. Mma Ramotswe opens her own company in a male dominated world with a lot of pressure on her. She is able to solve mysteries others can’t, run her business, and still have a personal life at the same time.

I found myself very interested in all of the characters in the book. It took me awhile to remember all of their names – and how to pronounce them – but they were very well written, well rounded characters. While the early part of the story was a little slow going – I very much enjoyed the book. I found myself looking for the other audio books in the series at the library when I returned it (I think Tears of the Giraffe will be the next audio book I get, if it is there).

I would recommend this to anyone interested in some light mysteries (nothing like the James Patterson type mysteries, more local grown mysteries) as well as learning about the beautiful, rich, African culture.


As I was listening, I decided that it was a very good decision to choose this on audio book – I would have found myself too hung up on the pronunciation otherwise. The narrator is a native South African woman whose speech pattern lent itself perfectly to making the experience very real and almost palpable.

You can listen to a sample of the audiobook (links to Audible)

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If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book: Amazon | B&N | RJ Julia

Also by Alexander McCall Smith:

Alexander McCall Smith has written many, many novels.  Among those in The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series are:

tears of giraffe

Tears of the Giraffe (book 2)

Morality for beautiful girls

Morality for Beautiful Girls (book 3)

The Kalahari Typing School for Men

The Kalahari Typing School for Men (book 4)

The Full Cupboard of Life

The Full Cupboard of Life (book 5)

In the company of cheerful ladies

In the Company of Cheerful Ladies (book 6)

blue shoes and happiness

Blue Shoes and Happiness (book 7)

the good husband of zebra drive

The Good Husband of Zebra Drive (book 8)

the miracle at speedy drive

The Miracle at Speedy Motors (book 9)

Tea time for the traditionally built

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built (book 10)

Find Alexander McCall Smith: Website | Facebook | Twitter

Copyright © 2009 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. For me Alexander McCall Smith's novels are just like sitting down for a few minutes with a cup of tea - extremely relaxing and a good change of pace.

  2. I've never read his books but the TV series they did on HBO was lovely.

  3. Great review, thank you! Have never heard of this writer before, but the book sounds great. Also never tried a audio book.


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