Books 13 - 15 Years16 and up

The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency: An Awesome Book Set In Africa

Detective novels always get a bad rap. What are you reading? Agatha Christie. Oh, just some detective novel. I usually then snuggle back into my book, sad for the talker who is missing out on the joy of a good mystery. Sherlock Holmes is my read about a hundred times and repeat book. The joys of Poirot solving some ghastly murder in the English countryside with it’s large oaks and Earl Grey tea are too many to explain. The only other author who draws me back again so is the lovely Ms.Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte.

Dear friend Mamta Chander introduced me to Alexander McCall Smith over the book The Sunday Philosophy Club which was very, very Scottish. My favourite lines in the poem were of the protagonist Isabel describing the apple blossoms in May. The mystery was not riveting, but the characters and place descriptions made me bookmark Mr.McCall Smith. A chance discovery of The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency and I thought let me read this. I could never resist the detective who lives such a dangerous and varied life compared to my routine existence.

Mma Ramotswe had a detective agency in Africa, at the foot of Kgale Hill. These were its assets: a tiny white van, two desks, two chairs, a telephone, and an old typewriter.Then there was a teapot, in which Mma Ramotswe – the only lady private detective in Botswana – brewed redbush tea.

Jill Smith plays the only lady detective of Botswana

Jill Smith plays the only lady detective of Botswana

How does one resist such an introduction? One doesn’t. What follows is page after page of lush writing that does not let you know about the passage of time. It is a book not only about Mma Ramotswe but Botswana itself.

To the front, an acacia tree, the thorn tree which dots the wide edges of the Kalahari; the great white thorns, a warning; the olive- grey leaves, by contrast, so delicate. In it’s branches in the afternoon, or in the cool of the early morning, one might see a Go-Away Bird, or hear it rather. And beyond the acacia, over the dusty road, the roofs of the town under a cover of trees and scrub bush; on the horizon, in a a blue shimmer of heat, the hills like improbable, overgrown termite-mounds”

Precious Ramotswe has little or no fear and can assess situations and people in a jiffy. Ample in proportion and remarkable in mind, Mma Ramotswe sets about solving the many puzzles that plague her clients. The book brings out clearly the economic urgency of running a business and the anxieties of not getting paying clients. Mma Ramotswe’s detective skills are impeccable, solving cases unerringly but sometimes unusual ways.

Unlike many detective books, the author tells  the reader about the detective’s personal life, her father and his history in the mines. In doing so he gives a slice of life in Botswana. Erring husbands, suspicious wives, cases of mistaken identity and identity hiding are rife which only means all the more cases for The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency. Witchcraft, kidnapping, Indians in Africa, car theft all make for very engrossing reading.

How could someone research nuances of the culture of Botswana I thought. Until that is I learnt that Mr. McCall Smith, born in Zimbabwe became a professor of law at Botswana. He is credited with writing the only book on Botswana’s criminal justice system.

The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency is also available in televised form, in a production by HBO. The very talented and beautiful Jill Scott who brings Mma Ramotswe to life.

The No.1 Ladies Detective is as much about Africa, being comfortable in one’s own skin, kindness and love as it is about solving life’s many problems and mysteries.

Other books in the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency Series include Tears of The Giraffe, The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party, The Kalahari Typing School for Men, The Miracle At Speedy Motors, In the Company of Cheerful Ladies and much  more.

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