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Crime/Mystery Series: Precious Ramotswe

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. And three mugs--one for herself, one for her secretary, and one for the client. What else does a detective agency really need?
The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency
--Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith's Precious Ramotswe and Her No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

About the Author

Smith is something of a polymath, and prolific as an author: Tthe No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is only one small part of his output. Despite his having been a law professor, few if any of his other books have a criminous inclination. Here are some on-line sources of Smith information (which all tend to repat the same basic data):

About the Character

While Smith had been getting published for years, it was not till the first Ladies' Detective Agency novel that he became, as one site put it, "a force of nature in the publishing world". While his other novels are, on the whole, equally delightful, readers seem to dote on Mma Ramotswe. Here are some on-line data on the character:

(In case you came to this page you are reading from a search engine instead of through its site, I will here repeat the brief remarks on the main mystery/crime page that points here.)

This curious new series is set in Botswana, which is not the Africa of stereotypes, and relates the doings of Precious Ramotswe, a middle-aged single woman of "traditional" build who, for no terribly good reason, spends her modest inheritance opening "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency"--No. 1 because it is the first detective agency in Botswana run by a woman.

Mma Ramotswe ("Mma" is the polite form of address for women) has, in each book, several cases, which she solves by a combination of solid common sense and some clever investigation. But, as with all good mystery books, the merit does not lie in puzzles and their answers, but in the human circumstances and the author's telling. As to that last, Smith writes fine prose: clean, flowing, lucid. (He has written over half a hundred books ranging from learned legal treatises--one of which is The Criminal Law of Botswana--to children's books to short stories.)

The human circumstances are warm and optimistic, though not without the occasional grim intrusion. Owing to that warm optimism, some lit-twit applied the sobriquet "The Miss Marple of Africa" to these, and a more horrid error would be hard to make: these tales are not brain-dead "cozies", they are a procession of real people (not Christie-esque caricatures) who happen to be mainly decent people living in a mainly decent time and place. (The education the reader receives on the mores and morals of Botswana--which, it seems, is remarkably different from most or all of the other sub-Saharan African nations--is itself worth the reading of these books, but it is only icing on a cake perfectly delicious in itself.)

The Books

Precious Ramotswe Ladies' No. 1 Detective Agency Novels

Smith's Ladies' Detective Agency books are all novels--no short stories.

Precious Ramotswe Ladies' No. 1 Detective Agency Omnibus

I see no great attraction in this item, inasmuch as it is simply a boxing of the individual books, which are not in any way a distinct part of the multi-book-and-growing corpus. There is a like-named collection of CD "audiobooks": take care what you're looking at. There is now also a one-volume paperback omnibus volume, but at 960 pages, it is doubtless quite a handful, literally; the queston again arises: since the originals, in single volumes, are readily available, why bother? Anthologies or omnibuses make sense when the originals are scarce, or not available in uniform editions, or have textual corruption, or exist as numerous small story collections--none of which cases applies here.

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